“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. For some reason this statement has become the mantra of gun folk, a presumed “win-all” argument in any debate with an anti-gunner. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t work.
When was the last time you saw a gun-control debate won with the guns-don’t-kill-people trump card? I’m guessing never. Perhaps, once upon a time, this argument held merit. But these days it’s a monotonous tune played by unimaginative gun folk. And no one’s listening. We need a different approach.
The fact is you will never convince an anti-gun activist that firearm ownership is good. Never. Ever. So why even bother?
Who is the target audience?
Like any hotly debated subject, there are three groups of participants:
- Those on the left side of the fence
- Those on the right side of the fence
- And those who ride the middle of the fence
The latter folk are the ones that need addressing. In most cases they make up the bulk of any population group. Which means they also have the largest vote. The mistake gun owners make, is that we expel too much energy trying to convince anti-gun activists that they are wrong, while at the same time they are punting their propaganda at the fence-sitters. The important thing to remember is that the general public doesn’t necessarily think that guns are bad. But, like most things, they fear what they don’t know. And guns are an easy thing to be afraid of.
We will never win a gun-control argument with crime stats and figures. Telling people that the homicide rate increases after gun control laws are implemented will simply produce a counter statistic that proves an opposing thought. And so, an endless game of pie-chart tossing ensues, where no-one wins or admits defeat.
We don’t need more stats and facts to win the fight, we simply need a moral angle.
A positive moral argument
The argument against guns is void of logic, so trying to throw more logic (stats) at the problem (in an attempt to convince them) is…well…illogical.
Let’s look at the typically reasons why so many people are anti-gun:
- They are afraid of guns
- They believe that your owning a gun puts their life at risk
- They believe guns represent the easiest way to kill people
- Or they believe that if all the guns were gone, then the world would be a better place
If you look at the above-mentioned points, you’ll notice that the first one serves as an undercurrent for all the others. Meaning fear is the number one driving-force behind any anti-gun argument.
Following that, there’s a strong sentiment of morality, e.g. “What gives you the right to put my life in danger?” Unfortunately, as far as human emotions go, fear is the most dominating one. It has the ability to paralyze reason, block logic, and shutdown the ability to accept any counter argument. This is why most pro-gun arguments don’t work; they fall upon ears deafened by fear. As a result, the only effective means of cracking a fear-based argument is to incite the opposite emotion.
Paratus recently republished a blog about succesfully fighting back. The article listed several positive cases where firearm owners protected their (or a potential victim’s) life against a violent attack. Quoting any one of these stories in an anti-gun debate will have an impact that’s far more powerful than you realise. Research shows that our brains respond best to narrative and anecdotes. Basically, we’re more likely to retain information when it’s conveyed in a story. This concept dates back thousands of years, and according to the same research the most receptive story is a hero-based tale where an ordinary person overcomes adversity.
Changing people’s minds one tale at a time
Quoting a positive story enables the listener to overcome negativity and manage their fear. This technique has been around for ages and transcends cultures, such as tribal leaders telling tales of heroes around campfires. These days things are no different. If you look at most children’s books (or box-office movies) the themes are similar: fear and negativity, overcome through bravery and positivity. Such stories have a long-lasting emotional and intellectual effect on our belief system.
Additionally, a positive story grants the opportunity to introduce a follow-up moral argument: “So, do you think the hero did the right thing?”
I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of many rebuttals to such a question.
Returning to my original statement about fence-riders and the general public’s perception of firearms: the onus rests on us to change these perceptions. In conclusion, it’s our duty to search for and share positive firearm stories. And while we’re at it, a visit to the range with a non-firearm owner won’t hurt relations either.
Written by Grant Spolander. Photo from HomeFront.
Grant is a Paratus reader and keen firearm owner. He likes the outdoors and 4×4-ing. Through cyberstalking him, it appears that he has a Jeep fetish.
5 years ago
Very interesting article. I like the link between a positive attitude and bravery. I would add that these are attributes sorely missing in our leadership today, a possible starting point for them in eliminating the negativity we are faced with every day.
5 years ago
There comes a time in everyone’s life when you realise your limitations. I wish I had said that but being a logical critical thinker that is not the way I could ever word it. I can say that Grant Spolander has done firearm owners a great service in making something few have ever understood so clear. Simply put a statement I made in 1999 before the formation of the Firearms Forum was we have to learn and know that the only guiding principle to winning is that it is only possible with public support. There are many who think pretty words will convince government or a court case will do the trick. It is impossible to win with such gross ignorance and stupidity. I’m not going to explain why as I have done that hundreds of times.
Unfortunately the greatest obstacle to “public education” is firearm organisations as they have decided it is impossible to do or any of one thousand other excuses. Nothing in the past has managed to get through their deliberate preference for appeasement and collaboration. Perhaps with the current fiasco of incompetence of CFR, corruption and criminality of the SAPS and the fact that pressure will be applied at some time to “resolve” the expired licences and pre FCA licences and permits. GFSA has already attempted to direct this and will succeed at some point. With an utterly hostile CRF and government know and stated desire to remove those citizen guns firearm owners will once again be in governments cross hairs.
All I can say is heaven help them because the sycophants of firearm organisation will not. Anyone who believes these charlatans know what to do needs a sharp lesson in history. They do not know how to do anything but capitulate and collaborate. People who want to win do not give up and cannot be lead by people who have a history and proven desire to give up. The need leaders willing to fight no matter what.
Such leaders will not come from the ranks of elitists and collaborators.
I make no apology for my choice of words as anyone who knows me will vouch. I don’t play politically correct word games and I am the first one to admit I am more likely to annoy people than to convince. My intention is not to convince as I believe each and every one of us needs to learn to think and examine for validity rather than wobble along blindly on beliefs.
Congratulations Grant I enjoyed that and hope others can learn from it. If not maybe they are not ready yet to want to survive gun control. No other way will do it.