Anti-Gunners: If We Can't Win The Debate, We'll Just Change Our Language

I noted last week that the anti-gun crowd has changed their tactics, learning just enough so they don’t sound like complete fools when discussing firearms.

But in a recent article by New York Magazine, we see anti-gunners are doing far more than just learning the lingo; they’re actively trying to change the language their side is using to sound more appealing to a wider audience.

Thanks in large part to the student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, green shoots of optimism are sprouting amid the rocky terrain of America’s gun debate.

But as liberals see real reason for hope, many are still wrapping their policy aims in an unhelpful phrase: “gun control.” This term has long been the default for well-meaning citizens who want to curb the killings that are a fact of American life. But it’s well past time to retire it and come up with something more effective.

They make the point that Americans are just not real fond of government control  — and they’re right. 

It can be argued that the United States’ bedrock cultural individualism is the wellspring of the country’s history of innovation. But it has also been a persistent obstacle to the kind of comfortable, regulated lifestyle that is the norm in many other developed nations. 

The specter of the government coming to take your guns, an idea often ridiculed on the left, is a very powerful one on the right — just witness the booming firearm sales throughout President Obama’s tenure. This, despite the fact that the man couldn’t get so much as a universal background check through Congress.

Of course, when you catch the left in an unguarded moment, they admit that’s exactly what they want.

The article continues:

The idea of ditching “gun control” is not new. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings, Molly Ball observed in the Atlantic that President Obama and Vice President Biden had avoided it when they introduced a set of modest reforms that Congress failed to implement.

“We find that it’s one of those terms that has some baggage,” Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (now part of Everytown for Gun Safety) told NPR the same year, noting that he’d seen polling data that swung wildly when people were queried on that term versus others. “We talk about gun violence prevention, because that’s what it is.”

Because gun violence is the only kind of violence we should concern ourselves with, right? Never mind that knife attack just last week or that 2014 attack in Kunming, China that killed nearly 30.

The article goes on to suggest that terms like “gun safety” (which those of us who own guns generally practice) or “gun reform” are better than “gun control” since they don’t set off nearly as many alarms.

Tweaking the language around guns does not mean that liberals must meekly allow gun owners to lead the way on any kind of change, as David Brooks recently suggested. And it does not mean, as some Second Amendment defenders would have it, that gun-reform advocates must master the technical differences between an AR-15 and a Sig Sauer MCX to speak authoritatively. It simply means that there is no need to alienate the many Americans who might be receptive to what is generally a popular cause, but who fear — rationally or not — that some of their rights will be stripped away.

It’s not an irrational fear when after every mass shooting the left starts in on how we must restrict this or regulate that. 

So, why is it we on the right aren’t interested in “common sense gun control?” Well, it’s like this. There’s an old Arab proverb (probably apocryphal) about not allowing the camel’s nose under the flap of your tent, lest he be sleeping with you.

Back in 1934, we allowed the camel’s nose under the flap. In 1968 he’d got his head in. Come 1986 he was standing in our tent. By 1994 he was in bed with us, and we’ve been trying to kick the smelly dromedary back out ever since.

We learned, the hard way, that when the left says “common sense” or “compromise” they mean “give us everything we want or you are evil” — and they are past masters at changing the language to suit them. 

So we’re done compromising. We’ve (finally) managed to get the camel out of our bed, and now we’re working on getting him out of the tent. We’re not particularly inclined to let him back in our sleeping bag. 

He smells and isn’t housebroken.

Dec 02, 2021 7:30 PM ET