Far be it from me to ever be critical of anything that Gabby says or does, because Jared Loughner was only exercising his 2nd-Amendment rights when he shot her in the head. And I’m not being sarcastic since Gun-mob Nation will tell you that the 2nd Amendment gives Americans the right to protect themselves against the encroachments of government. And what could be more encroaching than a Member of Congress, a.k.a. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, standing in a supermarket parking lot and talking to her constituents about this and that?
And Gabby, along with her husband Mark Kelly, obviously recognizes that a bullet in the head notwithstanding, every gun owner still deserves their 2nd Amendment rights. At least this is what they are saying in a new messaging strategy, Making Our Communities Safer, that has Gun-mob Nation all abuzz. Actually, the buzzing started on Politico, which reported that Americans for Responsible Solutions held a strategy session for progressive public-policy organizations, labor unions, the usual mix, promoting the idea that the public discussion about gun violence should stress ‘gun responsibility’ instead of ‘gun control’ so that gun owners can be gently coaxed to slip away from the grasp of the NRA.
I suspect that the surveys and contact group sessions conducted by the Global Strategy Group for Mark and Gabby provided a reasonably-correct assessment for how Americans think about guns. And if a reasonable and intelligent dialog about gun violence might develop by altering some of the language that was previously used, that’s all to the good, given that God knows we’ll certainly never get any reasonableness or intelligence from the other side. And if you don’t believe what I just said about the kind of rhetoric that’s currently floating around Gun-mob Nation, just watch a political ad taped by Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson who, in case you didn’t watch, was featured in various interviews during the Cleveland Ku Klux Klan rally hosted by the Donald Trump and the RNC.
Which brings me to the problem I have with Gabby and Mark’s attempt to create a new lexicon for talking about guns. I share, with no hesitation whatsoever, their concern that a meaningful reduction in gun violence will only occur if we effect a cultural change and changes in culture can only take place if we change the language through which that culture is expressed and understood. And I further agree with Gabby and Mark that a new language has to be developed that does not cast aspersions on people who want to own guns. Granted, gun owners should not be made to feel that there’s something wrong with them because they want to own guns. Granted, keeping a gun in the home or even walking around with it doesn’t, ipso facto, make you a safety threat to yourself or anyone else.
But where I start getting nervous about the effort to develop a more meaningful gun lexicon is not the issue of the words that will be used in such discussions, but whether and in what fashion such conversations will take place at all. Because if I have learned one thing in 50+ years in the gun business, it’s that there are really two types of gun owners, and these two groups don’t look at guns the same way at all.
On the one hand, most gun owners think about their guns the way we all think about the lawn mower out in the garage – it’s there when you need it, otherwise it just sits around. But there’s a core group, probably 10% of the NRA membership, for whom guns are the be-all and end-all of their lives. And this is the group that sends the emails, and makes the phone calls and loves it when Phil Robertson says that the country was founded on bibles and guns.
Want to start a meaningful dialog with these folks about gun violence? Better you should go lay brick. It’s not going to happen, it can’t happen, and some other way will have to be found to get Gun-mob Nation to even admit that gun violence exists.