Wolf in sheep's clothing
Democrats have been clinging to the issue of gun control this year, knowing that decisions may come down to a single issue for many Americans: guns. So naturally, the wolves are tailoring their sheep’s clothing according to what suits them best.

According to the results of poll and focus-group message testing conducted by the Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, candidates aiming to take out the NRA “need to stop attacking the gun-rights group and start sounding a little more like it, particularly when it comes to respecting freedom and safety”.

Last week, representatives from a multitude of progressive groups met at the Washington offices of Global Strategy Group, co-founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband, Mark Kelly, to learn how to adjust their narrative on gun control based on what the poll and focus-group data indicated would be most effective.

Their goal? To create a message that “will take root in an American culture that has long accepted gun ownership, if not revered it in parts of the country”.

For example, the representatives were told not to use the phrase “gun control” and instead use more palatable options like “gun violence prevention” and “preventing gun tragedies.”

“We’ve stepped away from a debate about guns that was sort of postured pro-gun or against-gun,” said Peter Ambler, the PAC’s executive director, “into one that’s centered around data-tested ideas like the background checks that we know increased public safety and save lives, but don’t sort of disapprove of the individual gun owner and don’t disapprove of the responsible use of firearms in society.”

So what about Hillary Clinton’s continued promise to “keep taking on the NRA”?

According to ARS’ findings, that kind of message is a grossly negligent way of reaching voters.

“The NRA has great favorabilities in a lot of places,” said Global Strategy Group Jeff Pollock, pointing to the 144-year-old organization’s popular — and apolitical — hunting and safety training programs.

Stick to stressing “the gun lobby” as a special interest out to “protect the profits” of manufacturers, Pollock told the assembled representatives of Priorities USA, NARAL, AFSCME and the Senate and House Majority PACs. A strategist from the Democratic side of Google’s political consulting operation was also there.

The group also suggests candidates need to stop trying to make a case out of the total donations lawmakers receive from “the gun lobby” and the NRA.

“Their money isn’t that big,” Pollock said. “It’s not what they do. Their power rests in their stupid postcards and their ability to terrorize members on the Hill and have them panicked about their rating.”

In fact, ARS and other gun control groups like Everytown for Gun Safety spends far more than the NRA on lobbying, not to mention ads and messaging. Last week, ARS threw down on a six-figure purchase for a new spot against New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, in which they accuse her of ‘misleading voters’ about her position on gun rights to win reelection.

While gun control advocates continually harp on how much Americans choose to give the NRA for their efforts to protect the Second Amendment, ARS has invested heavily in developing an effective message. Aside from hiring Greenberg Quinlan Rosner to run several polls, Global Strategy Group has committed to host online discussion boards and hired Anzalone Liszt Grove to hold five focus groups around the country with the fastest growing segments of gun owners: women, millennials and minority voters.

“The ’60s called, they want their clichés back,” said Larry Keane, senior vice president at the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Based on a description of the new strategy, Keane called it “very pretty looking camo” and said people have been going after the “corporate gun lobby” for decades. Adding, “Saying it isn’t gun control doesn’t mean it isn’t gun control. Their agenda remains the same.”

Dave Walker, a pollster with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, said the strongest message resonating with those polled is “with freedom comes responsibility” which rides the coattails of the NRA, who calls itself “freedom’s safest place”.

“Essentially, we co-opted their language,” Walker said. Similarly, another point stresses that “as adults, we have a responsibility to make our country a safer place to live.”

ARS’ strategy also subtly suggests that its allies are overplaying some strategies. “Relying on victims’ and survivors’ stories alone can amplify feelings of hopelessness,” its strategy booklet cautions.

“Mothers have also been powerful advocates for stronger gun laws, but we need to show through our messengers that they are not the only ones who want to reduce gun violence,” it advises, before suggesting bringing in more men, gun owners, hunters and experts like ER doctors and police.

Conversely, the NRA continues to encourage people to arm themselves before becoming victims through a series of hard-hitting videos featuring strong women and mothers, veterans and activists.

According to Prentice, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) distributed the ARS’ strategy booklet to every House Democrat last week and they also plan to coordinate with the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses, as well as the LGBT Caucus as well.

The hypocrisy of all this is that in order to win Americans’ approval to cut down gun rights, Democrats are instructing each other to sound more like the strong sensible gun rights’ groups they hate so vehemently.

Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, patriots.

Want to know more of the tricks Dems are stuffing up their sleeves? The complete Americans for Responsible Solutions strategy booklet can be found [HERE]

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