Thursday, January 17, 2013

NRA proposals: a new low in misdirection

Creative Commons photo by Ed Schipul
“Are the president’s kids more important than yours?” asks the National Rifle Association in its latest video. “Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.”

The magician’s secret, the key to a successful trick, is misdirection. Patter, the high-speed, high-energy babble that comes from the trickster’s mouth, is part of that. “Look over here,” the magician says, pointing away from the hand that’s hiding the coin or pulling the card out of the deck. The audience looks away, and the magician shows the illusion. Magic!

The NRA’s video is political and social misdirection. The illusion: that guns are necessary to the American way of life, the survival of the USA as we know it today.

The result: US residents buy huge numbers of firearms, and 55 percent of Americans support the NRA’s proposal to put armed guards in every school.

I’m neither a citizen nor a resident of the US, but it’s a debate that resonates in Canada. I’ll leave aside the criminally negligent absurdity of the NRA’s argument, and focus on the message from a communications perspective.

The context

NRA head Wayn LaPierre: not crazy.
Just bad.
(Photo credit: AP/Alex Brandon)
The argument over increased control of guns in the US is an old and predictable one. After the especially horrible school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last month, the debate ramped up again. Groups like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, among others, called for more and stricter controls on guns, and the National Rifle Association reiterated its hoary message: “guns don’t kill people — people kill people.” Then, the head of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, proposed that the solution would be to put armed guards in every school in the US. “If it’s crazy to call for putting police in and securing our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy,” he told NBC News.

That’s not crazy. That’s irresponsibly disingenuous.

The misdirection

As President Obama announced his intentions to more strictly enforce existing gun control laws and pass new laws, the NRA brought out this message equating Secret Service protection with armed security guards in elementary schools, and equating 50-round ammunition magazines with Second Amendment rights.

This is how misdirection works:

Look over here, folks. We have a problem: obviously mentally disturbed people arming themselves with military grade assault weapons and using them against children and other unarmed innocents.

Now, watch this hand: we give everybody the same kinda weapons! Assault rifle here, assault rifle there, concealed handguns over there. Now watch what happens: two days after the Newtown school shootings, a gunman in San Antonio, Texas opened fire in a movie theatre. He was wounded and incapacitated by an armed, off-duty police officer.

See? More guns means more security!

Just don’t look at the body count.

(According to the Journal of Trauma-Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, “before a child in the United States reaches 15 years of age, he or she is…12 times more likely to die a firearm-related death” compared to children in other industrialized countries.)

I’m not going to tear that argument apart. You can see for yourself that the fact that it was a trained law-enforcement person who shot the crazed gunman refutes the argument that arming everyone protects everyone. Nope, I’m not going to say that. You can figure that out for yourself, because you’re reading this blog, and that means you’re smart.
This is how the magicians of the NRA are misdirecting the public involved in the gun control debate:

Problem: if even some categories of firearms are banned, weapons manufacturers’ sales and profits will fall.

Misdirection: The politicians are taking away your freedom! Their servants are armed, their children are protected! You deserve the same thing: stand up for high profits for gun merchants lax or non-existent gun control legislation!

Don’t look at the actual problem: 130 school shootings in the USA that resulted in at least one death of a student or staff member since the Columbine shootings in 1999 (according to, an apparently right-ish site funded by the Annenberg Public Policy Center. I’ll let you form your own opinion on it:

What they’re not saying

When someone’s trying to convince you about something, you have to ask what’s in it for them.

According to Business Insider magazine, more than half the NRA’s funding comes “in the form of contributions, grants, royalty income, and advertising, much of it originating from gun industry sources.

“Since 2005, the gun industry and its corporate allies have given between $20 million and $52.6 million to it through the NRA Ring of Freedom sponsor program. Donors include firearm companies like Midway USA, Springfield Armory Inc, Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems, and Beretta USA Corporation. Other supporters from the gun industry include Cabala's, Sturm Rugar & Co, and Smith & Wesson.”

Read more:
The NRA and its corporate masters sponsors never say that, do they? No, they spend millions of dollars and countless person-hours to maintain the current gun laws, so that they can maintain their sales and profits.

Someone shoots an innocent person.
Response: Don’t let Washington dishonour the Founding Fathers and take away your rights!
What they’re not saying: We love our money much, much more than your kids’ lives.

  What do you think?


  1. Anonymous9:02 AM

    The root of every problem we've collectively created for ourselves is money. I'm all for much more selective and strict licensing, but I've always asked myself why would anyone need a 30 round capacity weapon. Gun enthusiasts' arguments are pretty creative I'll give them that. I hope we, as a society, become smart enough to ignore the fear tactics from both sides, and use more common sense. I live in CT, with two daughters in school. I could care less about the right to own a high capacity semi automatic rifle. I want my kids to come home in one piece. If that means you've got to go through hell to get a license to own a single shot peashooter, that's just fine by me

  2. Bravo for tackling a tough topic. I agree with you that the NRA's video is over the top, if not a stupid argument altogether.

    I am a US citizen, and I do not own a gun. Neither am I a member of the NRA.

    Here's the problem - The 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution allows for citizens to own a firearm. The Supreme Court has ruled multiple times on this...,2933,372041,00.html

    A history of the 2nd Amendment challenges and rulings can be found here...

    Two of the most important are the ones listed in the first two links, voted on in 2008 and 2010.

    Here's an excerpt that caused some confusion and needed clarification:

    "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

    The Supreme Court ruled that ordinary citizens have the right to own guns, whether they are enlisted in a militia or not.

    They also ruled that individual States do not have the authority, just as the Federal government does not, to ban guns.

    Without a new amendment that changes this, the US Constitution will always allow citizens the right to own a gun. Does this mean that the average citizen should be entitled to military style assault weapons and high ammo magazines? This is the current topic, and there are multiple ways of looking at it depending upon your point of view.

    On one side you have a group of very passionate gun enthusiasts. These are the nut-jobs you see on television and YouTube claiming that Obama/Liberals/Democrats are trying to take their guns away, and the only way that will happen is if you pry these weapons from their cold dead hands.

    On another side you have a group that believes guns kill people, and the less we have in our country the better off we are. They have no problem with any new laws that would limit or control guns.

    Somewhere in the middle, which is where most Americans seem to be, they understand that the 2nd Amendment was established for a reason. That reason goes beyond personal protection. The 2nd Amendment exists to help keep our government in check.

    Let me explain...

    When the Bill of Rights was first proposed in 1791(the 2nd Amendment is part of this), it was to enhance The United States Constitution, implemented four years earlier to replace the Articles of Confederation. Many state representatives distrusted the idea of a large centralized government that had the ability to raise an army. They were concerned that Federal rights would take away State or individual rights. The Bill of Rights addressed this issue by spelling out what rights individuals had, that the new (bigger/central/Federal)government could not take away.

    In essence, if the Federal government became oppressive then they would have to disregard these rights.

    You can see where some people might be a little anxious about the government telling them what guns, if any, they are allowed to own.

    I understand the feelings on just about every side of this argument. As I mentioned, I don't own a gun. However, I would be the first person in line at the gun store if it came to a nationwide ban on guns.

    A government that does not fear its people is a government that our Founding Fathers did not want.

    My two cents, for what it's worth.

    1. Thanks for a very well-reasoned synthesis of the debate, KD. It's so rare to read any contribution to this debate that uses reason and logic, instead of fear and vitriol.