On January 11 The Atlantic pointed out that President Obama is busy about the business of pushing gun-control, but is careful not to utter the words “gun control” while push for gun control.
Instead, Obama says “gun violence,” “gun rights,” “gun possession,” “gun safety,” “gun laws” when talking about the executive gun-controls he announced on January 5.
According to The Atlantic, the gun-control movement is still seeking gun control, but they have come to understand that the words “gun control” draw a response from the American people that is not beneficial to those who wish to institute more controls.
Robert Spitzer–“chair of the political-science department at SUNY Cortland”–explained how crucial it is that those who are pushing gun control communicate their goals in a way that does not sound like more gun control. “It is important. We know rhetoric matters. It’s a reinforcing effect, I think, to a great degree,” he said.
Spitzer used Bill Clinton as a example, saying, “Clinton changed the rhetoric of the gun-control side when he talked about having guns with ‘child-safety locks.'” Spitzer said the inclusion of “the word ‘child’ was deliberate, [that it was] a way of appealing to people’s emotions.” It made people think they were “protecting children” instead of thinking they were supporting gun-control.
When Democrats began pushing gun control in earnest in the 1960s, they simply called it by its name. Thus the Gun Control Act of 1968. But as the NRA pushed back–and gun owners began pointing to Second Amendment protections — the “gun control” term became less effective.
Breitbart News reported on this after gun control candidates at the state and federal elections were shellacked in the 2014 midterm elections. Salon published an interview with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts after gun control candidates were handily defeated, and they made sure to use the phrase “gun safety” instead of “gun control.”
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) took this same tack when talking about his penchant for gun control in April 2015. He used the language “gun safety” to describe his endeavors.
And now it’s Obama’s turn. On January 5 he expanded background checks, added new requirements for FFLs, mandated “smart gun” research, and co-opted a ban on gun possession for certain Social Security beneficiaries, yet never described the laws in the vernacular–i.e, gun control.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.