NRA members know what happens every time a tragedy involving guns appears in the news. Your NRA offers thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families and the community, while respectfully waiting for the facts to come to light before commenting in detail. Our opponents rush to the cameras, usually while police are still collecting evidence, leveling blame at America’s law-abiding gun owners despite having no knowledge of the facts. Their robotic response makes it seem like they have a playbook to follow.
That’s because they do. And now, we have a copy. Written by a cadre of high-dollar consultants who claim Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns as a client, the guide is a step-by-step roadmap for exploiting tragedy for political gain. Written well before the tragedy in Newtown, its advice is now apparent in the coordinated response that anti-gun groups and politicians launched the very same day of that terrible atrocity.
The guide makes no bones about the need to exploit tragedy while it’s still fresh. It tells gun-ban activists, “Don’t hesitate to speak out.” It goes on to say, “Don’t assume the facts—and don’t wait for them … the clearest course is to advance our core message.” And it closes this section about exploiting tragedy by noting, “Never apologize.” Perhaps this item signals that even jaded anti-gun extremists have become uncomfortable with these callous tactics, but the guide directs them to plunge ahead regardless, because a tragedy “creates a unique climate for our communications efforts.”
So what should the novice gun-ban zealot say after a tragedy? The guide is clear: “Always focus on emotional and value-driven arguments about gun violence, not the political food fight in Washington or wonky statistics.” Of course there’s no role for those wonky statistics—they reflect reality, not the gauzy, anecdotal narrative that drives support for gun bans. “Tell stories with images and feelings,” it continues. That’s why the anti-gun lobby is relentless in manipulating well-meaning families of victims, coaching them to deliver the same account time and time again, usually with pictures of the victim by their side. These principles are repeated in the guide: “Always start with the pain and anguish that gun violence brings into people’s lives. … use images that bring your message home.”
The “Language Dos and Don’ts” read like the anti-gun rhetoric of the past two decades. “Don’t talk about ‘gun control’ … do talk about ‘preventing gun violence.’ Don’t use the terms ‘stricter’ gun laws. … do advocate for ‘stronger’ gun laws.” This insight is paired with the authors’ clear discomfort with the two recent Supreme Court rulings that affirmed that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to possess a handgun for self-defense. “Don’t let our opponents overstate what the Supreme Court rulings did,” says the guide, and it cautions the reader to refrain from “ineffective language,” including the example provided: “We’re not trying to take away anyone’s Second Amendment rights.” It recommends that readers mask their gun-ban agenda by instead saying, “This is about taking reasonable steps to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.”
One section is dedicated to countering “the role of the NRA.” Here we see what must be a painful admission for the authors, noting that “When communicating with the general public, we need to be aware of the fact that, beyond our base, people have a positive impression of the organization and its role. … most Americans consider the NRA to be a mainstream organization.” That’s strong medicine, but it’s meant to help their cause, because they then identify arguments intended to chip
away at NRA’s positive reputation. “Always draw distinctions between NRA officials and the organization’s rank-and-file members,” it advises. It further recommends saying, “They’re a giant operation defending powerful gun manufacturers at every turn.”
Those baseless assertions were perhaps the most common refrains over the past year from anti-gun politicians and lobbyists alike. These statements indicate the elitist mindset that no intelligent, well-meaning person could possibly support the vigorous defense of the Second Amendment as worthwhile in its own right. And they throw a blinding spotlight on the inability of our opponents to understand why their anti-freedom agenda will never have the support of the American people.
But they do have their playbook, and we can safely predict they will follow it
to the letter.