If you wanted to “really brainwash” people against guns, how would you go about it? Ask people to start buying anti-gun ads to combat what some might see as a pro-gun bias in entertainment (skipping MacGyver, of course). What if that didn’t work? Well, if you got a chance to be Attorney General, you might order ATF operations designed to put American gun stores in the worst possible light. Breitbart.com unearthed C-SPAN video of Eric Holder in 1995 when Holder served as US Attorney for Washington DC in the Clinton-era Department of Justice, talking about the need to “brainwash” Americans into becoming hostile to gun rights:
Holder was addressing the Woman’s National Democratic Club. In his remarks, broadcast by CSPAN 2, he explained that he intended to use anti-smoking campaigns as his model to “change the hearts and minds of people in Washington, DC” about guns.
“What we need to do is change the way in which people think about guns, especially young people, and make it something that’s not cool, that it’s not acceptable, it’s not hip to carry a gun anymore, in the way in which we changed our attitudes about cigarettes.”
Holder added that he had asked advertising agencies in the nation’s capital to assist by making anti-gun ads rather than commercials “that make me buy things that I don’t really need.” He had also approached local newspapers and television stations, he said, asking them to devote prime space and time, respectively, to his anti-gun campaign.
How well did that work? On one hand, very well; Washington DC continues to have one of the most restrictive gun-control laws in the nation. On the other … not so well. DC also has one of the highest rates of gun violence in the nation, too. Most people would conclude that gun-control laws don’t really work as intended, and that perhaps disarming law-abiding citizens is counterproductive. But that would be rational, and Holder wanted to conduct “brainwashing,” which is the least rational form of argument possible short of force.
There is a big difference between guns and crime. One is merely a tool that can be used for many purposes; the other is a conscious decision to commit an act against the community that violates the laws we have put into place by common consent. If Holder wanted to conduct an educational effort to stop violence, he’d be much better off going after the latter than the former. Unfortunately, Holder has focused on the tools rather than on the crimes, and given this statement of principles, it’s easy to see how Operation Fast and Furious occurred. The need to “brainwash” people against guns certainly would explain the attempt by the ATF to demonize American gun stores in order to get people to acquiesce to more government control over sales.
Update: The Right Sphere notes Media Matters’ furious pushback, which argues that linking Holder’s statements in 1995 to the debacle of OF&F is somehow “hysterical.” Guns were illegal at the time in DC, they argue, which, er, everyone already knows — and knew at the time, too. And yet gun violence wasn’t going away even with those unconstitutional gun bans in place, which is why Holder as a public official called for “really brainwashing” people into anti-gun positions while serving as US Attorney. Given what we know of OF&F under the ultimate authority of Holder, it’s really not difficult to see it as an attempt to paint American gun stores as evil enablers of Mexican drug cartels in order to build political strength for more gun-control laws. And in fact, we know that ATF officials discussed that very outcome as part of OF&F.
Update II: Mary Chastain reminds us that Democrats in the House and Senate also used OF&F as a platform for their calls for greater gun control.