Why gun control loses every shootout on Capitol Hill and five things we need to do to win

Why gun control loses every shootout on Capitol Hill and five things we need to do to win
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An old cliché says, “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.” The way gun control advocates are going about changing the law reminds me of Harrison Ford in the movie, “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
In the movie, Indiana Jones played by Mr. Ford confronts a swordsman. The man dressed in black waves his sword with confidence and arrogantly at Indiana Jones. The crowd parts and Jones nonchalantly pulls his revolver from the holster and shoots him.

It is a cinematic metaphor about how those of us who want rational and reasonable gun control are approaching the issue. The National Rifle Association is Jones, and we are the swordsman and dispatched quickly by the NRA.

It is fashionable to hate the NRA. They make easy targets for rancor on social media. Part of their agenda is protecting the legal sale of assault weapons to anyone without a felony a record, sales to the mentally ill, and inconsistent background checks state-by-state. It is not a popular agenda in America, except with gun owners, and lawmakers.

insert1Every time there is a mass shooting, the hate for the NRA swirls on social media. It is not something the left lets go of quickly. Today, President Trump took to Twitter to mock those of us who support rational gun control and stronger background checks. That is his tweet on the left. He is making fun of Democrats, claiming we are gun-obsessed to the point we forget all else.

It is a lame try at deflecting the issue from guns, and back onto DACA. It shows he is political lightweight trying to redirect the debate. I hate to say it, but it might work although it is a ham-handed move on Trump’s part.

What we must do to win the debate

We need to look to ourselves, and not the NRA in the blame game. Hating the NRA is not going to change the law. Change is our ultimate goal. The NRA has outclassed us in lobbying the issue. Having right on one’s side is not what counts in making laws. What counts is the effectiveness of our message to lawmakers.

Congress does not hear our message. Do you know why it is not lawmakers are tone deaf to us? We are not delivering it in a way they listen.

Despising the NRA is getting us nowhere. They are doing their job, and they are doing it well. The NRA is the most successful trade organization in Washington. In my practice in Washington, we had a large number of trade associations as clients. Every one of them wanted to be another NRA.

The NRA does not have right on their side. They have something even better in the not-so-normal world of Washington, DC. They have fear on their side. What makes them even more powerful is they have an organization working for them.

insert2I love Pew Research. I have not found another non-partisan research group with more public information than Pew. They published a study today on gun control. The findings are a shock.

The chart is from their article of today. Those of us who support sensible gun laws just are not contacting our legislators on the topic. I know many of you will write and tell me, “Not me, I called my Senator and Congressman and left a message that I want gun control.” That is a meaningless exercise.

We must organize. Rather than hate the NRA, we need to look at what they are doing and match them. Gun owners are willing to part with their money to support the NRA. The NRA tells gun owners that guns will be banned if members do not give the NRA money. That is untrue as long as the second amendment is part of the Constitution.

We must be realistic. I know many people would love to ban all guns. That is a fantasy, and will not happen. It is not on the horizon in any of our lifetimes. Part of being a successful lobbying organization is dealing with reality. We need to have a consistent message that is realistic and achievable. As it stands today, there is no attainable proposal for reasonable gun laws offered by a credible organization with clout.

We need to up the fear factor. When a Congressman or Senator defies the NRA, there are consequences. The lobbying group comes after those who oppose them. They also have long memories.

The late Congressman Kenny Gray (D-IL) was my dear family friend and a great help to me in Washington, although I was a Republican in those days, and he was a Democrat. Kenny always said the Democrats would get me one day, and he was right.

In the 1980s, when I was a new lobbyist, Kenny called me one day to come over. He wanted me to help him with the NRA. Hunting is popular in Southern Illinois, which was Kenny’s district. The NRA never forgave Kenny for voting for the mailorder gun ban after the assassination of President Kennedy. That vote was like standing against Motherhood to the NRA. Kenny had a perfect NRA score, except for that one vote.

I persuaded the NRA to not go against Kenny. That was the best I could do. In this case, that was a lot.

There is no similar fear factor in support of common-sense gun control. As long as Congress does not fear us, we will continue to lose the debate.

We need to stop using social media as a panic button. We tend to think of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as powerful tools to let the government know what we the people want. Absent an organized, realistic effort, in support of practical proposals, we merely talking to ourselves.

I know many of us feel like we have done our civic duty by posting an insult on social media, but have not. The message goes out, gets lots of likes, shares, or retweets, and we just know we have made a difference. It is an illusion. We have spoken to the like-minded and not won any hearts or minds.

Do not get me wrong; social media is a powerful tool for public policy change when used in concert with a rational, and consistent proposal. It should be used to motivate activists to call THEIR Congresspersons and Senators. This business I see of having people from Florida calling Senators from Idaho is a waste of time. The Member of Congress does not care what people from other States or Districts think. The practice only ties up a phone line that may stop a call from a constituent.

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