Gun Control Playbook—If the Facts Aren’t On Your Side, Wave a Bloody Shirt

By Timothy Wheeler, MD

Dave Workman over at recently uncovered a gun prohibitionists’ playbook prepared last year by Washington, DC public affairs consultants for use in gun control campaigns. One such campaign is a Washington state ballot initiative, I-594, pushed by the gun control group Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility. The story got national buzz last week, with coverage in The Examiner, The Washington Examiner and the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto column.

The guide, titled “Preventing Gun Violence Through Effective Messaging” is notable for admitting in print what gun owners have long known—gun prohibitionists have no shame when it comes to pushing their cause. The cynical public affairs consultants advise gun control activists to take full advantage of mass shooting tragedies such as the Virginia Tech shootings, or high-profile incidents like the Trayvon Martin shooting to push for gun control. Here are some choice bits of what the authors call “effective messaging”:

·       “The truth is, the most powerful time to communicate is when concern and emotions [after a shooting tragedy] are running at their peak. While we always want to be respectful of the situation, a self-imposed period of silence is never necessary.”  In other words, don’t wait for families to grieve or the facts to come out before pointing fingers and pumping up the public’s emotions.

·       “Don’t assume the facts—and don’t wait for them.” After all, who needs facts like police reports or court evidence when you want to harness the power of negative emotions while they’re running high?

·       Don’t use the term “Stand Your Ground Law.” Instead call such laws “Shoot First” or “Kill at Will” laws.  This is not only a crass attempt to stir bad feeling toward these laws, but perpetuates the lie that they empower victims to become legal aggressors. Stand Your Ground laws simply codify longstanding case law that a person doesn’t have to retreat from a violent criminal attack in a place where he has a right to be. He certainly may retreat, but is not required to by law. This is not a new concept, but gun prohibitionists have latched onto it in an attempt to delude the public and weaken gun rights by calling for repeal of Stand Your Ground laws.

Safire’s Political Dictionary describes the ancient rabble-rousing political technique of waving a bloody shirt. He details how the technique was used in ancient Rome and on through the turmoil of pre-civil war America. It is a dubious method based on cynical exploitation of man’s less noble nature. It hides facts and reason, and it encourages anger and prejudice. But judging from this gun control playbook, gun grabbing activists and politicians apparently love it.


Dr. Tim Wheeler

—Timothy Wheeler, MD is director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Second Amendment Foundation.

All DRGO articles by Timothy Wheeler, MD.