It’s been said that he who controls the terminology of a political debate is halfway around the bases before the first pitch is thrown. That’s true. Just last week, video from the Charlie Rose show has Obama administration spinmeisters bragging about misnaming Obamacare “The Affordable Care Act” and even laughing about inventing the phrase “if you like your insurance, you can keep it”—knowing it was always a lie!
The gun control lobby is no different. Look how they got the term “assault weapon” into the public lexicon. Try as we might to correct the numerous misperceptions that it created, today nearly every journalist jumps at the chance to use the term “assault weapon” at every opportunity.
Those of us who own and carry guns know that misleading terminology has been a tactic of the anti-gun contingent for decades. It began in the late 1990s (remember the “Saturday Night Special” campaign?). But when the American public’s attitude toward gun control began to cool, the gun control cabal decided to update their messaging.
For example, “The Brady Campaign” was founded in 1974 as the “National Council to Control Handguns.” From 1980 through 2000, it operated under the name “Handgun Control, Inc.” But in 2001, in order to appeal to a broader audience (and hide their true agenda), it was renamed the “Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence” [emphasis ours]—after all, who would want to be against preventing gun violence?
Note that the term “gun violence” itself is misleading, because it linguistically links violence to the firearm, rather than to the person using it. The conversation should instead be about “gang violence”—after all, drugs and gangs are the real drivers of most homicides in America.
With the advent of a Democrat majority in the House of Representatives in 2006, followed by the election of Barak Obama in 2008, the soaring sales of guns in general, and defensive firearms in particular, made it clear to gun control advocates that the public was going completely counter to their way of thinking. Surveys verified that support for gun regulations of any kind was plummeting across all demographic groups.
As a result, no longer would anti-gun organizations use words like “regulation” or “control” in relation to firearms. Using focus groups to discover words and phrases that got favorable reactions, it’s now all about “gun safety”—once again, who could oppose “safety” measures?
Children are another big component of anti-gun propaganda. The gun control playbook recommends words and phrases that emphasize “keeping kids safe” and including the deaths of 17-year-old gang bangers in the number of “children killed by guns.”
Even utterly unworkable and potentially harmful and costly initiatives like “universal background checks” are now described as “gun safety measures” rather than what they are: covert gun registration.
“Keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill” is the excuse for recent initiatives allowing authorities to confiscate firearms, without due process, based solely on a claim by a relative that you are “disturbed” (combat veterans with PTSD, beware).
It’s just a fact that many people are easily influenced by language that sounds good, especially if they don’t dig into the details. As a result, “putting lipstick on a pig” often actually works (see: “Gun Free Zones”).
So it’s up to all of us who care about our rights to constantly make our voices heard, especially at the ballot box in November.