The politics of “guns” is now so incredibly clear that I am left spinning when I see that nobody is doing anything.
Here’s how to understand it:
1. Virtually anytime a pro-gun or anti-gun control bumpersticker slogan is floated out among the citizenry, “support” for “gun control” nearly vanishes.
2. Virtually anytime a gun control measure that is limited, direct, specific and intuitive, American’s support it.
Got that? They win vague. We win specific.
I can be opposed to “gun control,” but strongly in favor of preventing the mentally ill from buying a weapon.
I can be opposed to “taking away my second amendment rights,” but strongly in support of making sure gun buyers pass a criminal background check.
I can be wildly opposed to anyone trying to take away any of my dozens of weapons, but strongly in support of not allowing the sale of “assault weapons.”
They win vague. We win specific.
3. It is important to understand, I believe, that the National Rifle Association (NRA) always needs some level of controversy in order to keep the organization going. Without the potential of some kind of gun control, no matter how intuitive and direct, the NRA starts to lose its rationale for extracting contributions from its supporters. So here’s a Dr. Bob prediction: Within a week the NRA is going to send out a letter to its members warning that ‘in the aftermath of this new Colorado tragedy, NRA members must be even more on guard against efforts to infringe on Second Amendment rights.’
From the limited perspective of professional politics, you’ve got to hand it to those guys; they know their audience and know their business.
But a funny thing is starting to happen to the NRA. They’ve been too successful. They’ve been so successful, in fact, that they are running out of ‘good issues’ they can use to rally their members — and get a fundraising payday out of it.
The net result is that the strength of their pro-gun vagaries is starting to meet stronger resistance from the limit-guns intuitive. But despite that, politicians are still hiding under their desks fearful of the NRA clobbering them during an election.
But I digress.
We ran a campaign based on that analysis during the most recent Arizona legislative session. The mission was to stop legislation that would have allowed guns on college campuses. The gun caucus thought that was just a grand idea, of course, and was ready to pass it assuming there was nothing controversial about it. The NRA, of course, supported the bill, but seemed to be taking time off.
So we constructed a campaign that said there’s nothing wrong with guns or owning guns, but having guns on campus doesn’t make sense.
Got it? We gave them the “second amendment rights” position and we used the specific, intuitive “common sense” position.