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Opinion |  I helped lead the gun control movement.  It’s asking the wrong questions.


When a ban on assault weapons is debated, the conversation inevitably becomes a technical and confusing question. Although there is no standard definition of an “assault weapon,” much of the attention following mass fire is on semi-automatic type AR-15 rifles. Yet most mass shootings, like most gun deaths in this country, are carried out with handguns.

Equally important, however, the name of the policy includes the word “ban.” Supporters of gun control like to cite the “overwhelming majority of gun owners” support for “common sense policies”. But calling for a ban of some sort simply allows opposing politicians and organizations to label anyone seeking a change in policy a “gun grabber” seeking to strip Second Amendment rights from responsible gun owners. and law abiding.

To create real and lasting change, we must end the culture war on guns. Instead, gun control groups help perpetuate it.

No decent human being, whether a gun owner or not, wants to live in a country with our level of gun deaths. The most effective way to solve the problem, however, is not to figure out how to keep certain guns from everyone, but how to keep all of the guns from certain people – people whom we almost all agree do. should not have guns.

I have spent the past two years building relationships with leaders in the gun rights community and have found that this framing brings us to common ground. And that points to five specific moves that together would have a huge impact:

  • Prosecute and vigorously prosecute the small percentage of arms dealers who knowingly contribute to the illegal firearms trade (a trade that disproportionately harms communities of color).

  • Identify opportunities to strengthen the background check system by adding banned buyers that all of us, including 90% of gun owners, agree not to have. For example, federal rules governing the confidentiality of health records could be changed to allow mental health clinicians to identify those who pose a threat to themselves or to others, so that they can be temporarily added to the national system. instant verification. This should include exemptions for private sales which may make some proponents of gun control uncomfortable; but ultimately, in combination with the other measures listed here, it would lead to a significant improvement in public safety.

  • Invest in a large-scale education and awareness campaign on the dangers of owning and carrying firearms and what can be done to mitigate those dangers. It is essential that these efforts are carried out in partnership with gun rights groups and public health experts and that they remain free from any judgment on gun ownership or connection to advocacy. Politics. There are already many initiatives, such as educating the public on the warning signs of mental illness and suicide, that have been shown to be effective and could be role models.

  • Expand the work of “violence interrupters” and similar programs have been shown to be effective in reducing gun violence in cities.

  • Clearly define what it means to be a federally licensed firearms dealer, with standards that include sales volume. For years gun control groups have talked about closing the “gun show loophole”. The real problem isn’t specifically gun shows, but the people who regularly sell multiple guns to strangers, regardless of location, without having to do the same background check as an authorized dealer. by the federal government. Not only does this clearly contribute to the buying of straw men and the trafficking of firearms; it also puts honest dealers at a competitive disadvantage.

When I was seen as a leader in the gun control movement, other groups became very interested in how to “rename” the pursuit of gun death prevention: “Gun Control. fire arms?” “Prevention of armed violence?” “Gun safety?”

As a former publicity manager, I have always found this conversation superficial and frustrating. It takes more than a name and talking points to shape perceptions of any brand, no less of such an important social issue. It takes a basic truth, a deep empathy for the people you are trying to reach, and a disciplined focus on reinforcing that truth with everything you do and say.

The truth is that a ban on assault weapons is not the most effective thing we can do to prevent gun violence, and the resulting debate undermines the extent to which the American public agrees on solutions that could bring us closer to what we all want, which is to make our homes, schools and communities safer.



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