If I were to talk about there being a “war on guns,” I’m pretty sure I’d be labeled as crazy by every anti-gun journalist out there. After all, isn’t it really just about “commonsense gun reform” as we’ve been told a thousand and one times?
But, it seems, there is.
I know there is because the Huffington Post basically just admitted it. Oh, there’s not a long post about the so-called war, but there is one by a gun researcher who says he knows how Democrats can win it.
Gun safety was a winning issue for Democrats in recent state elections. But will calls for tighter gun laws — along with messaging that, as a Biden administration strategy memo put it, a second Donald Trump term would mean “more guns, more shootings, more deaths” — give Democrats an electoral edge in 2024?
I’m a Tennessee-based gun safety researcher, and I’ve spent much of the past decade studying beliefs about guns across red- and purple-state America. My research has led me to believe that Democrats can cut into what often wrongly appears to be monolithic Republican support for unregulated guns, particularly given current troubles at the National Rifle Association. But doing so requires better ways of engaging conservative gun owners, many of whom see gun reform as elitist or disconnected from their concerns.
Given my research, I have little doubt that Democrats are on the correct side of an issue that candidates from the top of the ticket down rightly call an urgent public health crisis. But I’ve learned time and again how guns pose different kinds of risks, and represent different social and political symbols, than do cigarettes, faulty automobiles or other targets of health campaigns that join government regulations with corporate accountability to spur changes in behavior.
My scholarship and that of other researchers working in red and purple communities suggest five key points that Democrats might keep in mind as the November elections approach:
Of course, you can go and look at those “approaches” if you so desire. I’m not going to recount them all, but it basically if that’s the best the anti-gunners have, I like our chances.
The “problem” is that there’s nothing really actionable here for anti-gunners to do. It mostly boils down to claims that they have to adjust messaging to say things they’ve been trying to say for years and no one is buying.
For these gun owners, resistance to reform is not just based on misinformation about government tyranny but also on material realities that shape perceptions of security in their lives. Shaping their views about gun safety needs to go beyond messaging about established public health interventions to address how and why they feel unsafe.
Of course, they feel unsafe because they’ve seen gun control fail to keep firearms out the hands of violent offenders time and time again, coupled with the Democrats’ insistence on turning criminals back out onto the streets as quickly as possible.
I’m not really sure just how much messaging one can do in that regard.
And no, they don’t really get much better.
Like I say, if this is the best they’ve got, I like our chances.
But it’s interesting to me that the author, a self-described “gun safety researcher,” is offering up all this advice while also hoping we’ll take his research seriously. Granted, based on his Wikipedia entry and his bibliography, one might not have to do much to consider his research. The only thing about guns listed is a book that came out the same day as I’m writing this on the topic. Instead, the rest of his writings definitely seem to line up with what Democrats think as it is.
In other words, I find it unlikely he’s done any unbiased research in the first place, so if people want to take this advice, such as it is, to heart, they need to understand that it’s coming from someone who only recently came to the topic and is now trying to speak with authority on it.
And is doing so rather laughably.