OSD 107: Coming out of the safe
Kind people are proud to believe in gun rights. Let’s act like it.
A couple weeks ago in our weekly Sunday night Clubhouse talk, the topic of stigma came up. The idea that cultural misunderstandings are often just a dance about what’s normalized and what’s stigmatized.
Well, it didn’t take long for a news hook about that to present itself:
First, some perspective: this isn’t actually something new. These companies almost all have long-existing partnerships with gun control orgs. For Giffords, and really any org, it’s standard PR strategy to take pre-existing work, pack it up into a new press release, and “launch” an initiative around it. The thing that’s actually being launched when an org does this is a wave of press coverage about it. (Check out Paul Graham’s classic essay “The Submarine” for more about this type of PR. Summary: if you want media to write about what you’re doing, the smart move is to give them crisp, pre-written talking points.)
It made some waves in gun rights circles, though, because it touches on a sore spot: you don’t see companies doing the same for gun rights. And that raises a question: why not? Well, let’s run through some possibilities.
Maybe companies have all looked at the facts and believe that gun rights don’t have value? The problem with that explanation is that there’s generally not much evidence that they have looked at the facts. In gun rights land, it’s common knowledge that the link between gun ownership and murder rates is actually mostly nonexistent, whether you compare countries, states, or the same place to itself over time; that lack of basic technical knowledge is endemic in gun laws; that concealed carry is enormously popular and getting exponentially more so; and so on. These realities are absent from the press releases, and there’s scant evidence that the companies are aware of these facts.
Maybe the owners and employees of the companies are just personally heartfelt against individual gun rights? Well, that’s clearly true for some folks, but is it representative? Every OSD cofounder has had the experience at work of multiple people privately confessing an interest in guns. So sure, some people are personally heartfelt for gun control. But there are substantial numbers who are heartfelt for gun rights. The latter just don’t speak up.
Put those two paragraphs together, though, and you start to get to an answer. 1) People generally don’t know much about the subject. 2) People who favor gun rights are afraid to come out of the closet about it. If both of those are true, imagine you’re a corporation and a horrific mass shooting is in the headlines. Any CEO who spoke in favor of gun rights in that situation would not be CEO for very long.
Corporate strategy is a game of predictions. Predict the right things about what your customers want, and you make money. Predict the wrong things, and you go out of business. Making these sorts of predictions is also a way to segment the market: you make your predictions based on which customers you want to attract.
These companies want to attract nice people. They don’t profess these beliefs because that’s what the company “thinks” — the company doesn’t “think” anything. The company says these things because they think that’s what nice people think.
If we want to change what companies say in public, we have to change their assumptions about what nice people think. The good news is that this isn’t a problem of facts. It’s just a problem of education. The facts are simple:
The history of gun control is deeply racist, and that’s becoming increasingly well-known. Black and minority gun rights are also starting to spread thanks to folks like NAAGA, Black Guns Matter, and Colion Noir.
Along with drug laws, gun laws have been the fuel for the prison-industrial complex and the erosion of the Fourth Amendment:
New York City’s stop-and-frisk, for example, was explicitly intended to prevent people from carrying guns — an activity which is perfectly legal in 42 states and Washington, D.C.
Federal gun laws, again along with drug laws, were largely responsible for the rise of draconian charge-stacking and mandatory minimum sentences. Such tactics are the reason why 97% of convictions in federal court are obtained through plea bargain, not through a trial. Charge-stacking and the threat of multi-decade sentences are how prosecutors force 97% of convicts to “voluntarily” give up their constitutional right to a trial.
Universal background checks are a lot less popular than the “90% support” talking point would have you believe.
Mass shootings are statistically uncorrelated with the availability of firearms, and are primarily a social contagion. The way to end them is to stop making them into news bonanzas. There are plenty of stats at the link, but two highlights:
Researchers “found that shootings that resulted in at least four deaths launched a period of contagion, marked by a heightened likelihood of more bloodshed, lasting an average of 13 days. Roughly 20 to 30 percent of all such violence took place in these windows.”
“Findings indicate that the mass killers received approximately $75 million in media coverage value, and that for extended periods following their attacks they received more coverage than professional athletes and only slightly less than television and film stars.”
A silencer is a safety device that helps prevent hearing loss, but a silenced gun is still as loud as a jackhammer. While silencers are common in Europe and it’s considered rude to hunt without one, possession of a silencer in the US is under the same legal rules as possession of a grenade (the National Firearms Act of 1934).
If someone is trying to hurt you, you have the human right to stop them. Denying that right disproportionately harms the physically and socioeconomically powerless folks amongst us.
There are 423 million guns in the US. Each year, about 14,500 of them are used in a murder. Those are extensively studied, and that’s good. But why do we spend roughly zero time talking about the other 99.9965721%? Is it reasonable to paint 10,000 people with the image of the worst one among them? As Prof. David Yamane says, “Guns are normal and normal people use guns.” That’s not an argument about the way things ought to be, that’s a description of the way things are.
In the face of those facts, pushing for more ways to imprison people over gun possession isn’t just laughable — it’s an idea that people will be increasingly ashamed to be associated with.
This is something we don’t talk about enough. Most people would be ashamed to imprison tens of thousands of people a year who haven’t hurt anyone — who were, in fact, exercising a human right. Most people would be ashamed to promote — in 2021 — the same ideas that stripped freed slaves of the tools to prevent the rise of Jim Crow. Most people would be ashamed to build the foundation of the modern carceral state, and to believe that we just need to imprison more, harder, and faster.
This isn’t about blame. People who support this stuff genuinely mean well, and they usually just don’t know the draconian truth. The goal isn’t to make anyone feel ashamed. But that has to start with not making ourselves feel ashamed: we should be proud to be out of the closet as earnest believers that gun rights are good.
People are busy, so on most issues, we just support whatever we think nice people think. Because we all want people to think we’re nice. More than that, we want to think of ourselves as nice. In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith wrote a passage that’s instructive on this front:
Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely; or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of love. He naturally dreads, not only to be hated, but to be hateful; or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of hatred. He desires, not only praise, but praiseworthiness; or to be that thing which, though it should be praised by nobody, is, however, the natural and proper object of praise. He dreads, not only blame, but blameworthiness; or to be that thing which, though, it should be blamed by nobody, is, however, the natural and proper object of blame.
This isn’t about being in people’s faces or starting arguments. Don’t do that. This is about just openly being a nice person who believes that gun rights are human rights. Principles matter. Kindness matters too. Don’t compromise on either, and we’re going to start changing some assumptions about which ideas are actually nice.
This week’s links
This first aired back in January, but check out this podcast for an interview with our cofounder Kareem Shaya. The bulk of the episode unfortunately signal-boosts the usual statistical misunderstandings, but the OSD segment is (to the show’s credit) fairly presented. It’s from 11:25 to 17:20. Kareem also quotes Prof. David Yamane at 7:50, although the show edited out the attribution of the quote.
Unprecedented demand is a good problem. Definitely good, but also definitely a problem. This interview is a stark look at the logistics.
A controversial question that we don’t know the answer to yet. All we know is that training has changed a lot in the past 10-20 years, and it’s a safe bet that it’s going to change a lot in the next 10-20.
A mathematical fact: precision will asymptotically approach 100% as volume of fire approaches infinity.
“The Truth About Guns’ Facebook page was republished yesterday thanks to a huge assist from Open Source Defense”
Email us at email@example.com if your Facebook or Instagram page ever gets taken down for erroneous gun-related reasons. Can’t promise we’ll get it back, but can promise we’ll look into it.
OSD office hours
If you’re a new gun owner, thinking about becoming one, or know someone who is, come to OSD office hours. It’s a free 30-minute video call with an OSD team member to ask any and all your questions.
Like what we’re doing? You can support OSD’s mission at the link below.
You’re going to like our merch. Top-quality hats, t-shirts, and patches with a subtle OSD flair. Even a gallery-quality print to hang on the wall.