Skelton: Newsom should use TV to win voters on gun control
It is very rare that something monumental is done in the American political system without strong public support. This is certainly the case with gun control.
The emphasis here is on strong Support.
What we need to achieve this is a strong gun safety TV ad campaign.
Polls have consistently shown that the vast majority of citizens support gun control — but not strongly enough to force meaningful legislation through Congress, such as requiring universal background checks and banning assault weapons, particularly their high-powered magazines.
It’s not high on voters’ priority lists — and little thought between mass killings in schools, churches, bars and dance halls.
That doesn’t apply to hardcore gun addicts, however. They are individual voters whose candidate decisions often depend only on a politician’s uncompromising allegiance to unrestricted gun rights. This allows them and the gun lobby to wield extraordinary influence over members of Congress, especially Republicans.
And that’s why America’s national gun restrictions—unlike California’s—are pathetic. The problem for California is that we are vulnerable to weak laws in other states. Their residents can bring guns into California, which are illegal to sell here. Or we can shop across the border.
Therefore, the resolve and demand of the majority — in California and across the country — must be intensified so that before a candidate can win his vote, he must make a pledge to support important gun laws.
How can voters be transformed from passivity to obstinacy?
In the same way, people were turned against tobacco, became more cautious about drinking and driving, and learned the consequences of throwing cigarettes out of car windows: video advertising.
We saw public service television ads showing the debilitating and deadly consequences of cigarette smoking and drunk driving. “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” Some of us remember Smokey Bear pleading in a bass voice, “Only you can stop wildfires.”
During World War II, before television, Rosie the Riveter public service posters encouraged women to work in shipyards while men did not fight. As enemy submarines dogged our shores, we heard on the radio that “loose lips sink ships.”
It was all very effective.
Similarly, we might now have TV ads urging, “Keep away from guns.”
The message need not be anti-guns per se. It could involve meaningful background checks and the use of a “red flag” law to report a gun owner who is behaving oddly and appears to pose a threat; his weapons could be temporarily confiscated.
Display caskets and sacrifices to visualize the evil of gun violence.
And flaunt ugly assault rifles with their high-capacity magazines to make people’s minds wonder why these weapons of war are needed outside of the military. The narrator would not have to ask the question. viewers would wonder.
Let people know that more Americans are dying from gunshots – 45,222 in 2020 – than from traffic accidents. Between 2011 and 2020, gun deaths increased by 33%. Firearms were involved in almost 80% of the murders.
“Ads like these can have a huge impact — like the ones against drunk driving and for wearing seat belts,” said Christian Heyne, vice president of policies and programs at Brady, which fights gun violence.
“States with the weakest gun laws are the same states with the highest gun fatality rates,” he adds. “It’s not an accident. It’s a correlation… Until the federal government acts, we will continue to witness these tragedies.”
Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor who specializes in gun law, says that “messages about the dangers of firearms can be effective in changing people’s attitudes toward them.”
“One reason the NRA has been so successful over the past half century,” he continues, “is that it has consistently pushed the narrative that guns are powerful tools for self-defense. The data suggest otherwise. Actually, you’re in more danger if you have guns at home.”
In domestic violence, easily accessible weapons are fired. Children accidentally shoot them. They are preferred in suicides.
These dangers could be mentioned in a television advertisement.
For example, a commitment to gun owners could be that the aim is not to confiscate all of their firearms. That would be politically and constitutionally impossible anyway.
One reader, Rich, emailed me: “Most gun owners I know support most of what [Gov. Gavin] Newsom says the nation needs. What we all fear is that this will never be enough… It’s the philosophy, ‘Never give up an inch because they’re going to take a mile’.”
“Baning high-capacity magazines is probably the most sensible place to start,” adds the reader. “Let Newsom come out and say, ‘This is what we should do and this will be the end.’ Then he can get some traction.”
The gun lobby wouldn’t agree, but they’re hopeless. Gun control advocates should target Rich and his sane buddies.
I called veteran Democratic adviser Bill Carrick, a veteran producer of political television commercials. He’s a realist who implied I was crazy.
“How you do that?” he asked. “Who’s going to pay for that?”
Good point. Certainly not Congress when Republicans control the House. TV stations may offer discounts, but it’s doubtful they would give away advertising time for free. Neither does cable, streaming services, or social media.
But Newsom and the state legislature always seem to have enough money to do whatever they want. This regulator could be a pioneer in the manufacture of gun safety points, which were a national model.
“You have to get private dollars somewhere,” says Carrick.
Well, there are 735 billionaires in America who are collectively worth $4.7 trillion. You’d think two or three would be willing to invest in gun safety.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-01-30/skelton-win-voters-over-on-gun-control-tv-ads Skelton: Newsom should use TV to win voters on gun control