Victimology, fear and control: core values of anti-gun policy
April 15, 2011
by Joseph P. Tartaro
The anti-gun movement has long had a problem with traditional American understanding of constitutional rights, as well as rational debate, and factual presentations. In order to make their positions believable they have largely based their arguments on bogus studies and the artfully tailored writings of willing co-conspirators in academia and the media.
The leading public voice of the anti-gun movement, which has undergone many name changes over the past 37 years, has always launched their public relations campaigns and public policy arguments based on two principal strategies, in order to gain control.
They have always exploited public sympathy for victims of violence: a strategy that I call “victimology.” And they have always launched any intensified public relations attack on the right to arms and self defense immediately after some major newsworthy crime that raises public fears of crime.
The main anti-gun organization is today known as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, but that is only the latest of many names. The current name itself is an attempt to cash in on the victim status of James and Sarah Brady, but more about that anon.
However, “control”the principal objective of the anti-gunnershas a long history in the group’s name as well as its objective, even though public polling has shown them that the word “control” has a negative impact on freedom.
According to Alan Gottlieb’s 1986/88 book, The Gun Grabbers, the group officially started out as the National Council to Control Handguns (NCCH), incorporating as a non-profit corporation in 1974. It later changed that name to Handgun Control Inc. (HCI), a name it used for many years until it dropped the word “control” from its name in favor of a victim-like moniker, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
In the mid-1970s, the group focused on handguns, thinking that the best threshold for public disapproval of firearms. In that period, NCCH/HCI made it clear in congressional testimony that it was not just out to eliminate private possession of just small, easily concealed, cheap handguns, but all handguns.
However, in order to sell the idea of outlawing all handguns, legislation proposed in Congress in those days tended to claim it was only targeting “Saturday night specials.” But at least one bill claiming to outlaw the “Saturday night specials” would have outlawed 1911s, Chiefs Specials and a host of other commonly owned handguns, used for defense as well as recreation.
In an effort to win public sympathy and give some credence and stature to their public statements, NCCH/HCI hired Nelson T. “Pete” Shields as executive director, and as the public face of the anti-gunners. Shields had been a marketing executive at E.I. DuPont in Delaware, who had previously served as a volunteer for HCI.
Why Shields? Because he was an emblem of all American parents’ fears of rising crime at the time, because he had lost a youthful son to gunfire. Crime was indeed rising in those days, but for other reasons than the availability of firearms for lawful purposes. The 1960s and ’70s were turbulent times with many social factors changing, none of which are a part of this particular column.
Shields’ 22-year-old son Nick had been shot to death in San Francisco in 1974, one of many victims of a radical black militant groups known as the “Zebra” gang. Police officially attributed the deaths of 21 whites to the “Zebra” killers, but, according to other sources, that toll may have been as high as 150.
For many years, Shields campaigned vigorously for a ban on as many kinds of handguns as he and his controllers at HCI could get. But he was replaced by another victim, or should I say victims.
The 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, less than three months into his first term, by a disturbed young man named John Hinckley, claimed other victims, including Reagan’s press secretary, James Brady, who accompanied him on that fateful day, as well as policemen and Secret Service agents.
However, while Reagan survived and resumed an active political career, Jim Brady became a lifelong convalescent, confined to a wheelchair. His wife, Sarah, almost immediately became a spokesperson for Handgun Control Inc. Later, as he was able to be more active and speak more fluently, Jim Brady became another prominent public face of the group.
It was during those days that Handgun Control’s name was official changed to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and later in 1993, when the waiting period bill was passed, it was renamed the Brady Act in his name, not Sarah’s, although many thought it was named after her.
The people who really run the principle gun control organization believed that victimology had finally paid dividends with passage of one major gun control bill. They quickly moved to get another with the addition of the ban on hundreds of military-style semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and handguns as part of President Bill Clinton’s Crime Bill which passed late in 1994.
Meanwhile, other things were happening that helped change the gun control debate. There had been the much ballyhooed “Million Mom March” in Washington, which not only failed to live up to its numbers, but triggered a counter-response in the formation of the Second Amendment Sisters. Public opinion changed in favor of guns for self-defense. Right to carry laws passed in state after state. People were buying guns for lawful defense and recreation in greater numbers, and the crime statistics started to drop. I will leave it to my friend John Lott and his fellow researchers to explain the reasons why. The ban on so-called assault weapons expired, and the crime rate kept dropping.
Meanwhile, financial and member support for the “Million Mom” cause dwindled, and the Brady Campaign officially took control of the group so it didn’t go entirely out of business.
As time passed, the Brady Campaign and allies grew more and more irrelevant.
This was even before President Obama’s election caused a far greater surge in firearms and ammunition sales. The Brady Campaign had been counting on Obama’s support in getting much new anti-gun legislation passed, but was seriously hampered when no such bills were passed.
They scrambled for new individual victims to exploit, as they had exploited Shields and the Bradys.
And they found one among the surviving victims of the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech. His name is Colin Goddard; he was shot four times at Virginia Tech, and survived.
Now he is the victim poster boy for the Brady Campaign which has been able to raise enough new foundation money, and media support to go high-tech in their public relations effort.
They created a film featuring Goddard, called “Living for 32,” which was recently shown as part of the Palm Beach Film Festival in Florida.
According to CBS12 in Palm Beach, the film opens with the innocuous statement, “I was in the right place at the right time. I was in class,” but quickly focuses on control through new gun legislation.
Ostensibly, the movie is about Goddard’s and the Brady Campaign’s efforts to close what they call the “gun show loophole.” What Goddard, the Brady Campaign, and all the anti-gunners in Congress really want is to prevent any individual citizen from privately transferring a firearm to any other citizen without the government overseeing the transaction.
The movie is slated for showing at some 14 film festivals during the coming months. I don’t expect it to be big box-office. But it will get a lot of media attention, and that means public exposure through “movie reviewers.”
Once again, the anti-gunners go to their main well for activism: victimology, fear and control.
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