Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Some Friendly Advice for Gun Control Advocates...

No matter what, the pro-gun lobby seems to always triumph over even the most minuscule ambitions of the gun-control crowd. In order to finally make some headway, here’s what the nation’s gun-control proponents MUST do to turn the tide against the nation’s most ardent Second Amendment crusaders.


The brutal truth is that in the U.S., the pro-gun sorts are the ones who dominate, and thusly dictate, the national gun control policy debate. Indeed, such has been the case ever since the 1990s, when the proliferation of the Internet, in tandem with the successful passage of gun control legislature like the Brady Bill, galvanized the nation’s firearm enthusiasts and turned them into one of the nation’s most formidable voting blocs.

It’s funny, in a way. Back in the 1970s, the National Rifle Association was an organization on the brink of disintegration; flash forward 20 years, and the NRA is one of the most powerful special interests groups in the U.S., while smaller pro-gun organizations (like Gun Owners of America and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership) are home to some of the most vocal -- and active -- political bases in the country.

Today, as it has been the case for a good 30 years now, when opponents and proponents of gun control policies square off in the United States, the opponents of such measures are the ones who ALWAYS end up winning. There’s a lot of reasons as to why that’s the case (which I will get to just a bit later), but at the heart of the matter, the reason why pro-gun folks always kick the asses of the anti-gun folks is because, quite frankly, the pro-gun people care a bajillion times more about the issue than their adversaries.

Pro-gun people, simply put, are absolutely obsessed with being gun owners. It’s not just an aspect of their life, it’s one of -- if not THE -- defining aspects of their own individual identity. They go on to forums and talk about guns, they talk about guns at the ammo shop, and if they encounter anyone with even a passing interest in firearms out and about, the automatically feel a certain kinship with whomever that individual is. The gun owners, especially the super-political ones, feel as if the gun itself allots them entry into some sort of unstated social club. This affiliation -- whether its with the NRA, or the GOA, or even an abstract idealization of “U.S. gun culture” itself -- comes to define who these folks are as human beings.

First and foremost, the gun is a symbol of social identity, a personal qualifier that many hardcore Second Amendment enthusiasts vaunt above even their own identities as American citizens (oh, and per US Code: all of those folks that signed online “secession petitions” just waived their own Constitutional rights to firearm ownership, FYI.) These people may place their allegiance to god and family slightly above firearms, but beyond that, nothing in this world means as much to them as guns. Take the guns away from these folks -- and by proxy, that association with the gun social strata -- and what are they left with, exactly?

Hardcore gun-rights folks, then are the epitome of the single-issue activist. There is no middle ground in their philosophies; you are either with them, 100 percent, or you are in league with “the gun grabbers,” the preferred pejorative used to describe any and all individuals whose personal agendas don’t sync up fully with their own. As single-minded as abortion and marijuana proponents and opponents may be, their ideological views are virtually agnostic when compared to the iron-cast, air-tight mentalities of the pro-gun lobby.

Perhaps the greatest ideological difference between gun control opponents and proponents is that gun control proponents are actually willing to compromise. However, in the eyes of the gun control opponent, any and all measures that would move the radar just a centimeter or two towards stricter enforcement and regulatory policies is indeed one step closer to civilian disarmament. Pro-gunners are absolutely bolted into their ideological planks, and nothing -- reasonable debate, emotional appeals, or cold hard mathematical figures -- can get them to budge.

The problem with gun control proponents, then, has largely been their beliefs that the pro-gun folks can be swayed with things like rationality and statistical evidence. This always, falters, as do the heartfelt appeals to reform in the wake of mass shootings like Columbine and Sandy Hook. The pro gun crowd, effectively, are warriors for the firearm symbol itself, these mujaheddin for the ideologically-collectivistic yet-effectively-leaderless “gun culture” cause. Just how serious does these people take their gun worship? Well, the two magum opi of the radical neoconservative movement -- “The Turner Diaries” and “Unintended Consequences” -- both paint bloody portraits of right winger revolution after hypothetical gun-control legislation is passed. There are scores of people in America -- perhaps more than any of us would like to consider -- that would literally kill to maintain their social statuses as gun-owners.

The question therein is pretty straight forward: why the hell do these people care about guns so much, anyway? To understand the gun owner mentality -- specifically, the hyper-political types -- you have to look at gun ownership as a spiritual matter, and not a rational one. Whenever you talk to a pro-gunner, their rationale for gun ownership is generally two-fold: usually, they’ll tell you they own guns because it serves some sort of niche utility -- they like to shoot clay pigeons or hunt elk or some other bullshit on the weekends -- or they need them for self-defense. Indeed, firearm manufacturers themselves are keyed deeply into the “defensive gun use” worries (or is it desires?) of the nation’s NRA and GOA fundraiser bases: some advertisements go as far as to literally pandering to the home-invasion fears/fantasies of gun owners, with one manufacturer actually naming one of its models after the U.S. Penal Code for “burglary in process.” Of course, this naturally lends itself to a question of who exactly it is that the gun owners are afraid will rob them and/or murder their family, which obviously has some sort of unfortunate racial underpinnings that they don’t won’t to talk about; this is something that gun control proponents could easily exploit as part of their own politicking endeavors, but alas, they have for far too long tried to wage war with those aforementioned (and wholly ineffective) facts and statistics instead.

Gun owners believe in the most tautological of ideologies: no matter what, guns are the universal answer. The problem with mass shootings, they’ll tell you, is that they take place in “gun free zones” where your standard John McClane type and his concealed firearm are unable to save the day. They’ll trot out the same old platitude about Kleck’s entirely-discredited “2.5 million defense gun use incidents a year" statistic, and if you’re really lucky, go off on a tangent about how Hitler and Stalin were able to take over their respective countries by first disarming their respective citizens. Of course, that’s a load of Grade-A revisionist bullshit: at best, reductions gloriously ignorant of the countless historical variables that contributed to the 20th century totalitarianism, and at worst, the most brass-balled propaganda this side of Holocaust denialism.

Gun owners, as such, view themselves as these unofficial protectors of America itself, with them and their guns serving as the only barrier between the rest of us and Pol Pot’s tyranny. In short, we’re dealing with a bunch of quasi-vigilantes -- with a near animistic belief in the social power of guns -- whom are gloriously unaware that their anti-fascist views of government actually posit themselves as the fascist overlords of non-gun-owning citizens. The same way the pro-gunners condemn the federales for fostering order through force, the core ideology of the politically-motivated gun owner mandates that exact same kind of physical threat be exercised by firearm owners upon the general populace.

No matter the excuse politically-motivated gun owners give you -- for sport, for self-defense, because of selective interpretation of Constitutional privilege, etc. -- the ultimate reason anyone wants a gun is because of power. Owning a firearm, psychologically, gives both the suburban fortress dad and the scared 14-year-old ghetto kid the exact same sense of irrational comfort -- that with this item, you now have God-like control over your fellow man. If you’re ever in trouble, all you have to do is point, and with one click, you become the Grim Reaper himself. By nature, humans love the sensation of power, and the power trip facilitated by gun ownership -- that being, the technological ability to become Death incarnate -- has a very strong appeal. Indeed, one of the most impressive rhetorical feats of the pro-gun lobby has been their ability to linguistically cloak the fact that, as man-made tools, the only real utility guns serve is to kill, maim and seriously injure -- it’s the P.R. spin job of the last quarter-century, in many regards.

The central thing to take away here is that, as long as super-political gun-owners equate firearm as a means to physical and social power, gun control advocates are helpless. If gun-control proponents ever want to start seeing NRA and GOA bases give an inch or two of ground, they are going to have to radically overhaul their public relations approach: in other words, it’s time to start fighting as dirty and tenaciously as the pro-gun folks do.

Perhaps the first thing to be aware of here is that not all gun owners are political loonies. Indeed, most gun owners aren’t politically-motivated at all, and the guys that like to use rifles to hunt caribous and the fellows that own a handgun in their own home really aren’t a political or social problem in the slightest. The problem arises, almost exclusively, from gun owners who perpetually turn the issue into a matter of identity politics. These are the folks who clamor for the ability to bring semi-automatic weapons into elementary schools and buy ammunition in bulk because they think the U.N. is trying to ban bullets; alas, as vocal a presence they are -- and with all of the political clout gun rights lobbying brings to D.C. -- theirs is a disproportionately powerful one.

Demographically, these people aren’t your rank-and-file Red State redneck yahoos the liberal media has painted them as. Rather, most of the politically-motivated gun folks are well-above-median income individuals evenly dispersed throughout the suburbs of America. Most of them are well-educated -- the NRA base is filled with lawyers and engineers and doctors and their sizable fiscal contributions, after all -- and they tend to know the law very, very well. They stay in the loop when it comes to gun news, and they almost always have some sort of hereditary appreciation for firearms -- in short, their love of guns and the gun culture was passed down to them by their parents; gun-ownership, as a political identity, is a taught behavior, really no different than one’s religious upbringing (or indoctrination, depending on your stance.) Almost always, their gun worship is an extension of their parentage’s gun worship; oddly enough, gun control proponents have been all but oblivious to this generational component to gun rights politics.

So, right there, we see where gun control proponents have gone wrong. To begin, attacking ALL gun owners is just a downright stupid strategic error, which only serves to galvanize the political gun owners and perhaps sway a few moderates over towards Camp Wayne LaPierre. As such, gun control proponents, first and foremost, need to make a concentrated effort to FIRMLY spell out that they’re not attacking all gun owners, or even all guns: start by saying that you have no qualms with rifles, shotguns and handguns (as long as they remain in one’s home), and actually concede that the Constitution gives gun owners of the sort the basic right to own said weapons. Needless to say, it’s been goddamn amazing to me just how poor a job the gun control crowd has done in getting this most fundamental of messages across.

From there, you need a good divide and conquer strategy. The greatest strategy gun control proponents could possibly utilize for their cause is to drive a rift between the classes of gun owners -- that is, making a clear social distinction between the noble, socially-conscious hunters and pistol-under-the-nightstand types and the socially-unconscious, politically-motivated concealed-weapons advocates and AR-15 stockpilers. It’s a classical, time-tasted wartime strategy; create dissent among the “adversaries,” polarize the politically-motivated side as extremists, and form a true political union with the gun owners who don’t view their weapons as social identity-framers. The idea, ultimately, is to have apolitical gun owners view the politically-motivated firearm enthusiasts as the lunatic fringe; if you're a gun control proponent, nothing should be sweeter to your ears than hearing a true sportsman say aloud, "I love my guns and all, but those guys in the NRA? What a bunch of whackjobs."

A good example of this can be culled from the LGBT movement. For years, LGBT rights proponents posited types like Fred Phelps as emblems of religious hatred -- so much so that, over time, the more mainstream religious institutions and organizations began to take more moderate stances on homosexuality, just to distance themselves from the negative associations with the “extremist” groups. The idea, then, is to turn the NRA and GOA into the poster children for firearm extremism; that is, to posit them, first and foremost, as entities whose obstructive stances actually ENABLE mass violence more than they serve the collective needs of the nation’s sportsmen. In turn, the true hunters and one-gun-owners will come to see that such politically-motivated organizations DON’T represent them socially, and especially, legislatively.

To do this, I would recommend two tactics. Oddly enough, the first strategy is pulled directly out of the anti-abortion playbook -- in order to sway public opinion, gun control proponents HAVE to make the after effects of gun violence HIGHLY visible to the general populace.

You know how some cigarette packs have pictures of charred lungs on them? Well, what gun control advocates need  to do is rattle the general public with the exact same type of blunt visual power. One of the greatest advantages the pro-gun groups have had over the years is that, more or less, we as Americans never actually get to SEE the actual bloodshed of mass shootings like Virginia Tech and Fort Hood. The same way people that see what actually happens in a slaughterhouse vow vegetarianism afterwards, gun control types NEED to shock the country into accepting the frank reality of gun violence with vivid, grotesque real-world images. Reading about innocent children shot dead has only nominal impact; having to literally stare into the face of a gunned-down eight-year-old, however, forces an individual to consider the grave, undeniable impact of gun violence. Imagine, if you will, driving down the Interstate, and seeing a billboard of a young girl, with her face shattered by a 9mm bullet. In bold letters underneath, is the phrase “THE NRA DOESN’T WANT TO STOP THIS.” The visual power -- and the political point -- would be utterly impossible to dismiss, even among the staunchest of Second Amendment extremists.

Similarly, as gun violence has a disproportionate impact on the African-American community (particularly young males), and the pro-gun crowds are largely older whites, perhaps now is the time to go full force with the racist allegations. How many NRA members are black? What is the GOA doing to help families effected by gun violence? Why are so many racist pieces of memorabilia being sold at gun shows across the nation? In today’s multicultural society, being deemed a “racist” by the public at large is the ultimate kiss of death, and it’s nigh-time the pussyfooted gun control proponents of America mercilessly attacked the gun culture, as a whole, as being an abjectly prejudiced one. The same way gun proponents symbolically equate firearms with “freedom,” gun control proponents should be doing everything in their power to consciously link firearm fanaticism with racial intolerance and outright bigotry.

The second prong of the attack is a little bit more high-tech, as well as psychological in nature. An absolute must-see film for gun control advocates is the documentary film "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry." It's about this Chinese post-modern artist who strikes back against government oppression through use of the Internet -- in short, he and his compatriots go about their day-to-day lives, filming and then broadcasting videos of civil rights infringements, and even police brutality, live on the Internet.

The great irony I've observed over the years is that, much more than anything, Second Amendment enthusiasts fear but one thing: the First Amendment rights of others. It's funny, in a way, how arsenals of every kind are allowed at gun shows, but video cameras are strictly verboten; the absolute last thing political gun-activists want is to have their world -- with all of its unsightly doings -- exposed to the world at large.

Showing the gun culture for what it truly is -- at best, socially unconscious and glibly politically incorrect, and at worst, irrationally violent and remorselessly racist -- is an absolute imperative for gun control advocates. Footage of gun shows and the extreme chatter that goes on at such events needs to be publicized, as do the fringe musings of those standing in line, trading racial slurs and conspiracy theories, while waiting in line to purchase more ammunition. Videographic footage linking hardcore pro-gunners with political extremism is an utmost necessity, and a pivotal component in turning the tide of public opinion. Which, in turn, leads us to perhaps the current gun-control base's greatest P.R. problem at the moment.

Right now, individuals view gun control proponents in the same light Democrats were viewed circa 2004 -- as a bunch of weak-willed, powerless dweebs whose impact on actual public policy was virtually unnoticeable. More than anything, what swung the momentum towards the left's favor was, in the wake of John Kerry's failed '04 presidential bid, the Democratic Party's decision to show its teeth for the first time in half a decade. Simply put, for gun control opponents to have a fighting chance against the political gun fringe, they HAVE to go on the offensive, and re-brand themselves as the attackers as opposed to the attacked.

Guns are a symbol of masculine aggression. What gun control P.R. folks have to do then, is subvert that, and make guns a symbol of masculine insecurity. While popular media images paint the gun owner as a backyard commando, one trip to any gun show in America will demonstrate the politically-motivated gun owner as he truly is; primarily, as an overweight, balding, middle-aged dork who, in a one-on-one brawl against virtually anybody evenly remotely in shape, would have their asses knocked out in no time. Why do these people want more high-powered weaponry, and the right to carry handguns into school plays? The logic, then, is pretty straightforward: because people of the like, in every sense of the word, are a bunch of pussies. When people think gun owners today, they think Charlton Heston; it would be in the best interests of the gun control lobby to reframe that, and instead make the American poster boy for gun-ownership George Zimmerman instead.

From there, the idea is to contrast the bravery of gun control proponents -- alike the unarmed individuals who work in some of Chicago's most dangerous schools -- with the beer-bellied, out-of-shape wimps who frequent America's gun stores and safely shoot their mouths off from the safety of a keyboard.

Last year, you may have read about a group of pro-gunners showing up -- with assault rifles en tow -- to counter-protest an unarmed pro-gun control group in Texas. While the pro-gun control crowd, quite reasonably rattled, did little to respond to this provocation, what they could have done was send one lone protester directly in the face of those armed individuals, turning that person into more or less the Tienanmen Square Man of the gun control movement. One unarmed mom, standing directly in the face of a bunch of men carrying the same weaponry responsible for so many mass shootings over the years, symbolically demonstrating that the movement, as a whole, isn't afraid and isn't willing to back down when threatened. One mom, with one sign, metaphorically sending a big "fuck you" to the entire political gun base by silently confronting the armed masses; it would have exemplified the true bravery of the gun control movement, as well as have painted the pro-gunners as incontestable bullies and cowards. Public symbolism of the like, I would say, is absolutely essential for a truly effective gun control counter-surge to emerge in the U.S.

And from there, it's time for the gun control proponents to make this one a street fight. Organizations of the like NEED massive protests outside gun shows, incredible demonstrations of public support in Red State hot beds. There need to be rallies outside gun shops, and manufacturer headquarters, and especially the anti-gun-control lobbyists get-togethers. The pro-gunners KNOW the opposition is currently too afraid to strike back on their own home turf, and mass public gatherings -- with bullhorns and photographs of gun violence victims -- would not only garner easy media attention, but completely rattle the politically-motivated gun owners. Their war is a proxy war, fought via YouTube comments and CNN viewer feedback -- such protests would show them this is a REAL battle, and better yet, prove to them that the new breed of gun control advocates aren't going to run away from a literal gun-fight.

Of course, the cyber-fight would continue, as well. Gun control types attack web content en masse, creating the synthetic appearance of popular opinion. These are the kind of individuals who will attack a 20-year-old "Family Matters" clip for advocating gun buy-back programs -- this eagerness, clearly, can be used as a leverage point to a counter-attack. Subreddits like this one are more or less public shaming boards, and nothing strikes greater fear into the keyboard warrior's heart than knowing that, perhaps, his or her online doings would interfere with his or her real-world life. How dirty we want to get here, I suppose, depends on how dirty their initial assaults are: via resources like Facebook and Linkedin, though, it's not too difficult to find out who and where these online loudmouths live, and boy oh boy, wouldn't their employers love receiving a screencap of them inviting armed revolution, or calling someone a "libtard" (or worse) in a YouTube video? Lest we forget: in today's high-tech battlefield, bits and bytes are definitely more dangerous weapons than bullets and rifles...especially when the other side has an unfortunate tendency to suffer from diarrhea of the mouth. And if you REALLY want to fight a dirty war: galvanize your online bases to flame reputation-centered websites, and cite the individual attackers by name in the coordinated strikes against his or her employers. It may not be the most scrupled way to wage war, I know, but we're only fighting fire with fire here, after all.

As Saul Alinsky told us a long time ago, political battles are all about the framing of public opinion. The strategy here would be to posit the pro-gunners as the hypocrites, the fringe and the out-of-touch, while positing the pro-gun-control crowd as the solemn, serious and dispassionate underdogs, hellbent on victory a'la the Spartans in "300." No matter the political cause, Americans tend to always favor the undersized, the overachieving, and the supremely confident; as long as the public views the pro-gun-control folks as sincere and determined, half the battle is already won.

Perhaps the battle requires a PR campaign of unprecedented aggression, a movement to completely emasculate gun-fascination as a categorically "alpha male" interest. Instead of displaying buff movie heroes like Rambo (an iconic character portrayed, ironically, by one of the biggest gun control proponents in Hollywood) and grizzled outsiders/draft-dodgers like Ted Nugent as the literal poster boys of America's gun culture, what is needed is a complete deconstruction of who and what the typical political gun-owner in the U.S. is. How cool and hip and "masculine" can something be, after all, when its embodied by decrepit, crypto-racist bloggers and pot-bellied wannabe guerrilla warriors?

Show their ilk as the collective kooks, dingbats and out-of-touch dullards they are, and half your work is done for you. From there, campaign efforts should focus on celebrating real-life heroes, who were able to prevent mass tragedy from unfurling, not through concealed firearms, but nonviolence. The solution to loudmouth  pro-gunners like Chris W. Cox and Larry Pratt are people like Gary Slutkin, whose NGO Cure Violence aims to actually prevent gun deaths by employing community interventions, and individuals like Antoinette Tuff, whom reasoned a would-be school shooter out of embarking upon a Sandy Hook-sized massacre in 2013.

Remind the pro-gunners that all of their "defensive gun use" heroics occur only after someone's already began shooting, and that your side is the one proactively seeking to stop such shootings from happening at all. Remind them that, despite all of their cries for mental health reform, they're the ones who have deposited precious little into the pot themselves. Remind them that while they're droning on and on about gun-free zones, you're the ones that are actually financing increased public safety programming and violence prevention resources.

They're the ones that have constantly goaded you into a gun fight, and ridiculed you when you backed down. So the next time they beckon you to a duel?

It's time you finally blew their motherfucking heads off.

1 comment:

  1. ANti gunners, here is another good piece of advice, SHUT THE FUCK UP! WE can own guns, it is legal, it affects no one if someone buys a gun, and if you don't like it, feel free to find another country to live in

    ReplyDelete