So now while the decision as to who should run the world’s largest corporation gets down to how we feel about locker-room talk, the Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) community, a.k.a. Gun-sense Nation, needs to figure out a post-election strategy that will both enhance its presence among the general public and lead to some genuinely positive and practical reforms regarding guns.
If it’s over, if it’s really over, sometime following January 20, 2017 there well might be a 5-4 liberal majority on the Court, there well might be a gun bill on its way to her desk; all of a sudden GVP may not be playing catch-up but may actually, for at least a couple of years, be leading the way. It’s not all that easy to switch gears from ‘I told you so’ to ‘I’m telling you so,’ but a few more videos will make it still more likely, so without giving anything the evil eye, perhaps it’s time for GVP to get to work.
Here’s the problem. More than 55 million Americans no doubt own automobiles, furniture, clothing, toys, all kinds of detritus of daily consumer life, but they also own guns. Now probably half of these folks own only one gun, and in many cases this gun has been sitting around for years. And most of the other gun owners have between 2 and 5 weapons, a handgun here, a shotgun and/or a rifle there.
There are also 3-4 million folks who own as many as 100 guns or more, and it’s these folks, gun nuts to the core, whose energies and enthusiasms sustain the pro-gun side of the debate. And in addition to their love of guns, most of the members of Gun-nut Nation also have a deep and abiding mistrust of the motives and strategies of the other side, read: GVP.
I don’t believe that there is really any ground for compromise or a place ‘in the middle’ where Gun-nut Nation and Gun-sense Nation can meet because the latter is committed to the regulation of gun ownership and the former would be happy if all gun regulations disappeared. But the strength of Gun-nut Nation isn’t just a function of their numbers in a particular state or the country as a whole. It’s the fact that when it comes to their feelings about guns, they speak with one voice so their message is loud and clear. Guns are an important part of the American heritage, guns keep us free and guns keep us safe. Gun-nut Nation has been repeating this jingle over and over again for the last thirty years and they’ve got it down pat.
I don’t think the messaging is in any way as sharp, as clear or as consistent on the GVP side. Partly because much of the GVP activity has been reactive so that what comes out is more a response to what Gun-nut Nation is doing than what Gun-sense Nation wants to do. But there’s another problem that goes beyond the manner in which the GVP responds to the lunacies and idiocies of the other side. Which is the that, generally speaking, Gun-nut Nation speaks with one voice, Gun-sense Nation consists of many voices, each of which considers that what it wants needs to be heard.
I’m not trying to disparage or raise doubts about the commitment, energy or determination of any GVP group. And there should always be room in any particular group or grouping of organizations for competing points of view. I’m just saying that GVP has to figure out a way to preserve the independent thought and action of all its member-organizations while, at the same time creating one consistent message that will ring loud and clear. The opportunity may soon present itself for such a message to resonate far and wide. And the result may well be some new regulations that are long overdue. Now where’s the website with all those Howard Stern tapes?