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A War of Words

by Clint Cook

It’s ironic, wars have been fought over words, but the war over guns will ultimately be won or lost by words. We live in an age when we have boundless information at our fingertips. Unfortunately, it is easy to spread propaganda as fact, and pass fact off as mere propaganda. We must filter through this barrage of rhetoric and decide where the truth lies. 

I have been a gun owner my entire adult life, but it hasn’t been until recently that I began to really study the gun issue. As I delve deeper into this controversy one thing as become astoundingly clear: the gun battle is not fought with bullets, but words. Words are a very powerful weapon. Everything we hear is compared to our beliefs. Our beliefs then help us to form our perceptions of what we just heard. How we perceive a statement will ultimately help us decide what is truth. This results in a very subtle war of words that must be fought on all fronts, and quite frankly we’re losing the battle. 

Take for example the two phrases:

“The gun control movement promotes reasonable gun laws.” 


“The anti-self defense movement promotes the dis-empowerment of victims.” 

Now put yourself in the shoes of a neutral person; which cause are you going to support?

I personally believe that there are many uninformed people who believe in the right to self-defense, and the personal right to own a sidearm. These same people claim to support gun control. Why? Gun-phoebes, and gun-bigots use the power of words to fit an anti-rights agenda into the belief system of the public. This in turn leads to how the public will perceive the entire issue. 

Any responsible adult will agree guns should be controlled, but “Gun Control” is very ambiguous meaning everything from hitting what you aim at, to a complete firearms ban. The phrase “Reasonable Laws” is just as ambiguous, but both have a very positive spin, that strikes a chord of truth in most of us. Let’s take two people who have not studied the issue at hand. The first person believes that all people should have the right own a gun for personal defense, but background check are necessary to keep guns from convicted felons. The second person is scared to death of guns, the responsibility that comes with them, and feels that guns should be removed from society. Going back to the statement “The gun control movement promotes reasonable gun laws,” person 1 could agree because her belief system allows reasonable gun laws to be perceived as keeping guns from felons. So she may claim to support gun control simply based on this seemingly harmless statement, when in fact she actually supports the pro-rights/personal defense movement. Person 2, because of his belief that guns are inherently evil, will perceive reasonable gun control laws as a complete ban of firearms. These two people fall on opposite sites of the issue, but both could claim support based on their personal perception. 

The abortion issue activists understand the point I’m trying to make. There is neither a pro-abortion, nor an anti-abortion side. There is however a Pro-Life and Pro-Choice side. Forgetting morals and politics for a moment, what reasonable American is not a supporter of Life and Choice? Both are believed to be very fundamental rights of all humans. So regardless of which side of the abortion issue you fall on, your belief system allows your ultimate perception of truth to be in support of a very worthy cause. Making an argument against either can be perceived as fanatical and opposed to fundamental human rights. This subtle war of words applies to gun ownership just as much as it does to abortion.

We have failed to create a positive metaphor that rings true to the public, and expresses our belief in personal freedoms. We are on the defensive, and lose ground every time we speak or print any of the catch phrases in the gun battle that liken guns to violence, death, and tragedy. I highly recommend you visit:  (Also available on KABA here.) Alan Korwin has done an excellent job of compiling a list of common terms and phrases that hurt us every time we use them.

Let’s face it; in today’s society guns are equated with violence (I know, and you know that guns do not cause violence). We all want less violence, but as long as we help perpetuate the image that guns = violence we will loose. To win we must change the issue from a debate of guns, and turn it to a debate of personal freedom, victim empowerment, crime control, and civil rights – these are all worthy causes and force people to take a deeper and closer look at the issue. If we are to win, if we are to keep our freedoms, guns must be equated with good. This can will only happen if we stop using phrases and metaphors that will ultimate lead to guns being equated with violence.

It is time to turn the tide, and reveal the true consequences of gun restrictions. We must strike a chord with the public’s personal beliefs, so the people’s perception of the issue will lead them to the truth about guns, and not some misperceived falsehood perpetuated by the anti-rights liberals.

Other Writing from Mr. Cook: and

Related Reading

When Mother Teresa was asked if she would participate in a march against the war in Vietnam, her reply spoke volumes:

"No, but I will march for peace."


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What it means to take rights seriously is that one will honor them even when there is significant social cost in doing so. —SANFORD LEVINSON

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