The Right is failing in the emotional war over guns

The Right isn’t doing its job when it comes to convincing people guns are okay. Yes, open carry is legal in 46 states and groups like Institute for Justice have won important court battles over Chicago and Washington D.C.’s draconian gun laws. The problem is these wins are really only temporary because the U.S. Supreme Court can change its mind, and laws can be changed. The Right has got to get better at messaging on why it’s okay for people to own guns or the Left will keep winning the emotional battle year after year and tragedy after tragedy.

What’s the narrative from yesterday’s speech on gun executive action? It isn’t just President Barack Obama’s announcement (which AP already explained won’t do anything and Ed analyzed), but the fact he cried while talking about children dying in a mass shooting. It doesn’t matter whether the tears were real or not (as some on the Right are stupidly focusing on), but that he choked up while mentioning dead children. That’s what going to be remembered from all of this. It’s why pictures of families crying at funerals or outside the scene of a mass shooting are so effective in the Left’s strategy on guns. They pull at the heart strings and cause people to react in ways which make it harder for logic to reign supreme. It’s something right out of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. He suggested, “the threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” This means the threat of a child getting killed in a school or someone being shot in a movie theater becomes something people start fearing and wanting protection from. Even my mom told me to “be careful” when I went to see Star Wars last month because she was worried about Aurora happening all over again. It’s why Obama brought up what happened at Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Columbine during yesterday’s speech. The threat is, “it can happen to you, your kids, or your friends and we’ve got to do something NOW!” It’s effective whether we like it or not.

The Right’s reaction to gun violence or new laws is just predictable and tiresome. Some start screaming words like “unconstitutional” or “Bill of Rights” when talking about gun laws, while others use cold, hard logic when explaining why Obama’s “executive action” is meaningless and ridiculous. It’s an easy trap to fall into because that strategy has pretty much been engrained into our thoughts and action. If something is unconstitutional, we’ll say so or just outright mock of the “facts” the Left spews out when trying to work the court of public opinion on guns (or any other hot button issue). Facts are important, but the Right is doing things backwards when it comes to explaining WHY guns are okay and how they actually can protect us from criminals. Even the NRA’s “a good guy with a gun” message falls flat because, with respect to Wayne LaPierre, he isn’t best messenger and the narrative isn’t that exciting. LaPierre is telling the truth, but the message isn’t working.

What the Right should do is point out stories where the “good guy with a gun” actually stopped a bad guy with a gun. It’s why Kristina Ribali’s Hot Air piece on how a gun saved her from a neighborhood stalker is so awesome because it personalizes the situation. A mom defending herself and two kids from a bad guy. That’s something which can resonate with more than just the fire-breathing conservatives and libertarians. The same goes for the Chicago grandfather who was arrested in 2012 for owning an unlicensed gun after shooting a burglar. The Chicago Tribune helped set the narrative right after the arrest (emphasis mine).

An 80-year-old tavern owner in Englewood believes it’s “unjust” that he is facing charges after shooting a burglar, but believes he will prevail in court.

“It’s wrong,” Homer “Tank” Wright said as he walked into his bar after being released from jail this afternoon. “Unjust that I can’t protect me.”

Wright eventually had the charges dropped because the court of public opinion was against police and prosecutors. Look at the young Kentucky woman who took the gun away from a robber and shot him or the ten-year-old New York boy who scared off two intruders by firing a shot at them. These situations may be rare, but so are mass shootings (even if the Left wants to pretend they happen every day). The Right needs to point out more stories like this because it personalizes the issue. The “this could happen to you” narrative is turned upside down because it shows the benefit of what owning a guns can do and how they can be used for personal protection. There are plenty of times guns in the hands of civilians have actually saved lives, but for whatever reason those stories don’t get publicized. It’s probably because they’re not “sexy news” but that’s why the Right has to find them and be willing to use them!

This doesn’t mean the Right needs to completely forget the Constitution or cold, hard logic when it comes to discussing issues. It just means they need to be shrewd in deciding when the right time is to start using them. Tank Wright’s story can then lead into a discussion on why restrictive gun laws force grandfathers to become criminals in the search for protection. Kristina Ribali’s story can lead to a talk on why the Founding Fathers made sure the Second Amendment was in the Bill of Rights. A talk about a college student using an AR-15 to scare off intruders can lead to a conversation about how Internet gun purchases still require a background check because they have to be shipped to an FFL dealer. The Right has to start learning how to message better because Congress won’t be in the hands of Republicans forever and it’s always possible for state governments to switch from one party to the other. We have to adapt our strategy or the Left will keep exploiting tragedy to push their agenda.

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