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Political Report: Gun Control Rebranded

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Political Report: Gun Control Rebranded

For decades, gun control groups have constantly tried to change their brand names in order to fool the American public.  Their goal is to convince people that a new name equals a new agenda.  Gun owners, of course, see right through this charade every time it happens.

The latest example of this occurred on October 17, when gun control group Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS) announced a “relaunch” of the organization under the name “Giffords.” ARS was founded in 2013 by former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former Astronaut Mark Kelly.

At its founding, ARS tried to present themselves as a more reasonable alternative to the hardline gun control groups already in the field. In a letter announcing the group, the couple employed a folksy charm and assured readers, “we don't want to take away your guns any more than we want to give up the two guns we have locked in a safe at home.” This sort of down-home messaging never aligned with the fact that the ARS Political Action Committee’s most prominent donors included Michael Bloomberg and former Facebook President Sean Parker.

Nor did it align with the group’s unyielding gun control positions. ARS’s founding letter expressed support for a host of typical gun control policies, including the criminalization of private firearms transfers and restrictions on commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms. The group even supported legislation to make New Jersey’s already onerous gun laws more burdensome.  ... a new package won't make gun control ideas easier to sell. 

Further cementing the group’s radical bent, in 2016 ARS merged with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (LCPGV). LCPGV was founded in 1994 as the Legal Community Against Violence (LCAV) in response to a shooting at San Francisco’s Pettit & Martin law firm. In 2008, LCAV co-authored an amicus brief in District of Columbia v. Heller that argued in favor of Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban and against the Second Amendment guaranteeing an individual right to keep and bear arms in the home for self-defense.  Coinciding with the ARS name change, LCPGV is now the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Three name changes and a merger in just over five years might seem excessive to some, but this type of rebranding effort is commonplace among gun control groups and has been a regular and routine occurrence over the past four decades.  

What is today the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence was founded in 1974 as the National Council to Control Handguns. NCCH’s position called for “strict federal laws that will effectively restrict the possession of handguns to only the police, the military, licensed security guards, licensed pistol clubs, and registered collectors.” 

NCCH was then renamed Handgun Control, Inc. in 1979. The change coincided with new messaging that deemphasized a total ban on the civilian possession of handguns even though handgun prohibitionist Nelson T. “Pete” Shields remained at the helm of the organization until 1989.  Shields famously admitted his three part strategy to eliminate handguns.  First, slow down production and sales, then register all existing handguns, and finally, prohibit handgun possession in almost all circumstances.

In 1989, Sarah Brady became chair of HCI. The group officially assumed the name Brady Campaign at a D.C. gala more than a decade later in 2001. The change was ostensibly to honor the Bradys, but accurately reflected the group’s desire to move away from the term “gun control.”

In 1988, Josh Sugarmann founded the anti-gun New Right Watch, then less than two years later abandoned the name in favor of the less politically-charged Violence Policy Center. The inoffensive name appears to have worked on some of the less astute. In 2015, the New York Times referred to the organization as merely a “gun safety group.” This, despite VPC’s position that “Handguns should be banned from future sale except for military and law-enforcement personnel.”

From 1975 to 1990, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence was the National Coalition to Ban Handguns. In 2006, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg established Mayors Against Illegal Guns. After acquiring effective control of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, in 2014 Bloomberg rebranded MDA and MAIG under the umbrella group Everytown for Gun Safety. 

It’s telling that gun control zealots believe that the public will accept gun restrictions if they just put their product in a new package. However, after nearly a half-century of failure, it might be time for them to admit that the marketing isn’t the problem, it’s that the American people don’t want what they’re selling.

 

Chris W. Cox

BY Chris W. Cox

Former NRA-ILA Executive Director

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Chris W. Cox served as the executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action, the political and lobbying arm of NRA, until 2019. As NRA’s principal political strategist, Cox oversaw eight NRA-ILA divisions: Federal Affairs; State & Local Affairs; Public Affairs; Grassroots; Finance; Research & Information; Conservation, Wildlife & Natural Resources; and Office of Legislative Counsel. Cox also serves as chairman of NRA’s Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF), the Association’s political action committee; president of the NRA Freedom Action Foundation (NRA-FAF), which focuses on non-partisan voter registration and citizen education; and chairman of NRA Country, an effort to bring country music artists together with NRA members in support of our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.