23rd Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference
by Dave Workman
Marketing the Second
“The media is not the enemy, especially at the local level.”
“Selling” the Second Amendment may become a winning strategy for gun rights activists, according to Alan Korwin, author of several gun gun law guides.
He was part of a panel on Marketing the Second Amendment to the Public. He said gun activists must change their stripes, first recommending that they drop the term “pro-gun” from their vocabulary and substitute the term “pro-rights.” This places anti-gunners in the “anti-rights” column.
“We’re pro-rights, pro-freedom, pro-liberty,” he observed. “What does that make them?”
Korwin said the opposition has “beat us on the words,” and it is time to regain that ground.
“If they hate guns, you tell them, ‘It’s not good to hate’,” he suggested. “I’m in favor of crime control. We change the dialogue, we win the fight.”
He said everyone cherishes human rights, so make that an argument. Never say “semi-automatic handgun,” he suggested, “you should say sidearm.” And he never tells people he carries concealed, but only carries discreetly.
“I believe optimistically that you can reach everybody,” Korwin stated.
Guy Smith, an author and marketing specialist from San Francisco told the audience that he has enjoyed a “string of success in the land of the liberals.” The author of a 10-page book called Gun Facts, Smith suggested, as did an earlier panel on media bias, that working with reporters will get them to treat the pro-gun side of an argument more fairly.
“The media is not the enemy, especially at the local level,” he said.
Smith said reporters want to tell interesting stories and that they are essentially willing to let others feed them such stories. Pro-gunners should supply reporters with facts and useable quotes, news releases that can be used in news stories and the effort will result in stories that accurately reflect your message.
Another trick is to ask a reporter his or her deadline, indicating that you are aware of the time constraints. In addition, he said to remember what he called the “Three Cs” which prioritize potential stories: Conflict, Controversy and Compassion, in that order.
“Conflict is always the most interesting story,” he said, “controversy is a bit less so, and compassion is at the bottom.”
Nikki Stallard, a member of the Pink Pistols gay gun rights group, said the gay community gun activist can sell the pro-gun message by noting that gays have genuine needs for self-defense. Acknowledging that the gay community is traditionally anti-gun, Stallard said that this hatred of guns is “emotionally based.”
“We must use emotional-based arguments” to counter that, Stallard said.
The Pink Pistols have been active at Gay Pride events in an effort to build a “left wing gun movement.” Overall, stories about the Pink Pistols have been positive, with Stallard noting that reporters always seem surprised that gays have a hard time getting gun permits, considering that they use guns to defend against hate crimes.
Open Carry vs Concealed Carry
The final panel of the conference had the most potential for fireworks, a discussion about the pros and cons of open carry versus concealed carry. There were several open carry activists in the audience.
Scott Hattrup, an attorney and board member of the National Association of Arms Shows, observed, “Open carry, in my view, is primarily a political statement. Even in western states where it’s still a common occurrence, open carry is primarily a political statement.”
While some people carry openly because of their jobs, and others do it because they do not care to go through the hassle of obtaining a concealed carry permit, others carry openly because they do not believe they need permission from the government to exercise what they believe is a God-given right.
Open carry activists “want to desensitize folks that are out there that see the guns being carried on the hips of everyday citizens and get them used to the concept that gunowners are a majority of Americans.”
“You have to think about what your goals are when you are carrying openly,” he said. “Is your ultimate goal to protect that practice or is your ultimate goal just to scare some people and keep them off your back?”
Joe Waldron, legislative affairs director for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, noted that just because open carry might be legal, it may not always be prudent for a variety of reasons. Washington state, for example, is an open carry state but with an unusual statute that does open the door for public complaint and possible prosecution, depending upon how one conducts himself.
In other states, the law requires a person to have a concealed carry license if they carry openly, he said. Still other states forbid the practice entirely.
“There’s a difference between can and should,” he cautioned. “Just because you can do something, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you should.
“I’m not trying to discourage open carry in general,” he added. “From a philosophical perspective I believe in open carry, I believe it should be legal, I believe it should be normal, in every state in the country. But that ain’t where we are today in a lot of states.”
He said open carry prohibitions are not going to disappear anytime soon, and he said open carry advocates are going to have to change society to accomplish their goals.
After the report of the resolutions committee and adoption of motions before the body (See related story box), Joe Tartaro and Alan Gottlieb closed down the conference, noting that it was one of the best in the 23-year GRPC history, with great panelists and a very large and committed crowd in attendance.
The 24th annual GRPC will be held in St. Louis, MO, Sept. 25-27, 2009.
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