On August 17 Psychology Today equated persuading minds to support gun control with persuading minds to support arguments for climate change.
They also compared convincing Americans to support gun control with past efforts to convince Americans that cigarettes were dangerous.
The challenge of convincing people that gun ownership is not safe is not unique in the history of public health. Decades ago, people were very unwilling (and many still are) to accept the abundance of scientific evidence that cigarette smoking is unsafe. Armed with much of the same evidence, many more people today accept the scientific consensus that cigarette smoking is a health hazard than in the 1950s when the evidence was just beginning to emerge.
It is interesting to note that even as Psychology Today celebrates the success of turning so many people against cigarettes, it simultaneously admits psychologists are not really sure how they succeeded in doing it. So, on the one hand, psychology was key but on the other “it is still not entirely clear what exactly is responsible for this greater acceptance of the evidence and the dramatic decrease in the number of cigarette smokers in the U.S. in the past 50 years.”
So psychology has a certain role to play in the gun control debate, but that role is nebulous.
Yet Psychology Today is convinced that changing thought patterns and getting Americans to trust “scientific evidence” is a crucial endeavor here. By doing these things they believe they can help Americans overcome their tendency to accept common arguments against gun control. They write:
If we can…begin to understand some of the basic psychological principles that drive people to discount scientific evidence, we can craft more effective responses and apply them to a range of cases of science denial, from the anti-vaccine movement to climate change denial.
AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.