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How & Why The Anti-Gun People Will Likely Screw Up Marketing Their New Initiative

Jun 28, 2016 · 9 min read

A gun-limitation initiative called the “Safety For All” measure* will appear on California’s November 2016 ballot.

This article is my take on the advertising/marketing strategy the initiative’s proponents should and shouldn’t use. It’s about marketing/advertising a gun restriction ballot measure, not about the pros and cons of gun/bullet restrictions.

Passionate People Have Tunnel Vision

When you’re emotionally committed to a position you see it differently from those who aren’t.

True believers hold their ideas so strongly that to them their arguments seem like self-evident truths.

When you’re emotionally committed to a position your side seems to be so clearly right and the other side so clearly wrong that you view people on the other side as either stupid or evil or both.

Given that mind set, it’s only natural that the arguments emotionally committed people will make to support their position are the same arguments that convinced them that their side was right in the first place.

It’s inconceivable to them that those arguments, which they view as so clearly and obviously valid, could fail to convince anyone who is neither stupid nor evil to agree with them.

And in thinking that way, they’re totally blowing it.

I suspect that’s what the Safety For All people are going to do.

The Same Old Arguments Are A Waste Of Time & Money

1) The people on the other side already know the arguments that caused you to take your side of the debate.

2) If the people committed to the other side were going to be convinced by the arguments that resonated with you they would have already come over to your side.

3) Hundreds of TV ads that repeat the same old arguments that convinced you won’t make any of the people on the other side change their votes.

People Whose Votes Won’t Be Changed

People who already think that making it more difficult to buy guns/bullets will reduce gun violence are already going to vote “Yes” without any ads.

People who don’t think that the easy availability of guns/bullets contributes to gun violence are immune to pictures of bodies or funerals or newspaper headlines or statistics about gun deaths.

The last thing the Safety For All people should do is produce TV commercials recalling mass shootings and body counts, grieving families, and gun-violence statistics, followed by a call to “Make the killing stop by voting ‘Yes.’”

Target The Potential Swing Voters

Their marketing target needs to be the two groups of voters not already going to vote “yes” who they might be able to switch over to their side:

1) People who are confused by the conflicting arguments and who, by default, will vote “no” or will not vote at all because doing nothing is the safe course when you’re not sure what to do.

2) People who are leaning toward a “no” vote but who might be willing to come over to the “yes” side if their reasons for voting “no” could be undermined.

Getting The Marginal Voters

If you want to convince the marginal people on the other side to come over to your side you have figure out

(1) what reasons they have for not already agreeing with you, and

(2) a way to make them see that the arguments that convinced them to oppose you aren’t valid.

The first task, finding out what arguments convinced the people on the other side that they’re right, is easy. The Safety For All people already know what the people on the other side think. They just think those ideas are stupid.

Ignoring ideas you think are stupid held by people you think are evil may make you feel intellectually and morally superior, but if you want to get their votes you’ve got to get the marginal people on the other side to begin to doubt that the arguments that matter to them are true.

The Pro-Gun Arguments

The two principal reasons people have for opposing tighter gun laws are:

1) If more people had guns we’d be safer because the “good guys” would be able to shoot the “bad guys” and thus immediately fix the problem.

Ads featuring mass shooting casualties are ineffective with people who believe that more guns make us safer because they think that more guns will actually decrease mass-shooting casualties.

2) Every American needs to be armed so that when

(A) U.N./Chinese/Other Foreigner troops swarm across the Mexican border to invade the country, millions of citizens need to be able to grab their assault rifles and defend the country (Hey, didn’t you see Red Dawn?), and

(B) When the socialist, Big-Brother Government in Washington takes away the last bit of our freedoms, all real Americans need to have assault weapons at the ready so that they can rise up and overthrow the totalitarian government in Washington by force of arms.

In the minds of the people who believe this second argument, mass-shooting deaths are a small price to pay for maintaining the ability to defend Freedom from invasion and totalitarianism through armed rebellion.

By the way, naturally these weapons must be unregistered and their owners anonymous so that the invading army and/or the totalitarian Washington D.C. government won’t be able to just grab a list of these patriotic gun owners and take their weapons away.

This is why pictures of grieving parents and reports of body counts will be absolutely, totally, and completely ineffective in changing the marginal pro-gun people’s minds.

Countering The “More Guns Make Us Safer” Argument

I see a series of TV ads along the following lines:


A mother and child are in line at a supermarket. A man tries to cut into the head of the line. Another man tells him to back off. The first man pulls back his coat and shows his gun. The second man shows his gun. The first man puts his hand on his gun. The second man panics and draws his gun. The first man whips out his gun. Shots are fired. The child falls dead.

The Voice Over: “This is not Dodge City. More guns risk everyone’s lives.”


A man is at a stop light which turns green. The car ahead doesn’t move. The man taps the horn. The driver in the first car gets out and shouts at the man. The man sees that the driver is armed and the man pulls out his own gun. The driver sees the gun come out and pulls his own gun. Shots are exchanged. Both men are hit.

The Voice Over: “This is not Dodge City. More guns risk everyone’s lives.”


A young couple is at a restaurant waiting for a table. A group of young men come in and take a table that is opening up. The waitress asks them to wait their turn. One of them shows his gun and says that they’re in a hurry. The waitress walks away. The young woman looks at the young man. He whispers to her, “That’s it. I’m getting a gun.”

The Voice Over: “This is not Dodge City. More guns risk everyone’s lives.”


Two gang members with AR-15s walk into a used car lot. They point to a car with a $5,000 sign on the windshield. “We’ll give you a thousand,” one says. “It’s $5,000,” the nervous car dealer says. “It’s a good offer. You should take it,” the other gang member says and holds out a sheaf of bills. The car dealer hesitates then takes the money.

The Voice Over: “This is not Dodge City. More guns risk everyone’s lives.”


We see a clip from the All In The Family episode where Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker gives a citizen’s rebuttal to a local TV station’s editorial on airplane hijacking.

“This here is Archie Bunker, veteran of the Big War, speaking on behalf of guns for everybody.

“Question: What was the first thing that the communists done when they took over Russia?

“Answer: Gun control.

“Now there’s a lot of people in this country who want to do the same thing to us here in a kind of conspiracy, see. Take your big, international bankers.

“They want to, what do you call it, masticate the people of this here nation like puppets on a wing, and then, when they get that done, they can hand us over to the communists.

“And now I want to talk about something that’s on everybody’s mind today, that’s your stickups and your skyjackings, which if that was up to me I could end the skyjackings tomorrow.

“All you gotta do is arm all your passengers. If the skyjacker knows they’re all armed then he ain’t got no superiority there and he ain’t gonna dare to pull out no rod.

“Then your airlines they wouldn’t have to search the passengers on the ground no more. They’d just pass out the pistols at the beginning of the trip and pick em up again at the end. Case closed.”

“Archie Bunker was wrong. More guns do not make us safer. Vote Yes on Proposition XX.”


A clip from an old western of a shootout in a saloon. At the end, the voice over:
“This is not Dodge City. More guns risk everyone’s lives.”


A young man is shopping at a convenience store. A second man bursts through the front door, pulls out a gun and aims it at the clerk, shouting: “Give me all the money or I’ll kill you.”

The shopper ducks back into an aisle and pulls out his own gun. He slips around the corner and tries to sneak up on the robber.

The robber catches a glimpse of movement in the mirror above the cash register, swings around and fires a shot at the shopper. He misses.

The shopper fires six quick shots at the robber. The robber is hit in the shoulder, lurches and staggers out the door.

The shopper runs to the door then looks back toward the cash register. The clerk is on the floor, dying, shot in the chest by one of the shopper’s six bullets.

The shopper hears a noise. He turns and sees a pregnant woman lying on the floor bleeding. She’s been hit by the robber’s shot that missed the shopper.

DISSOLVE TO: Shopper talking to a police officer. The shopper says, “Sorry he got away but at least I winged him.”

COP: And the clerk is dead and that pregnant woman’s lost her child.

SHOPPER: I was just exercising my Second Amendment rights.

COP: Is that what you’re going to tell that clerk’s wife and kids?

SHOPPER: When you go after the bad guys sometimes there’s collateral damage.

Voice Over: “This is not Dodge City. More guns risk everyone’s lives.”


Three thirteen-year-old boys are in a tree house.

FIRST BOY: “If I saw one of those terrorists, I’d fix him.” Makes a shooting motion with his finger. “BAM.”

SECOND BOY: “You bet. They wouldn’t get away with that stuff with us around.” Gestures as if holding a rifle: “POW, POW, POW.”

THIRD BOY: “We’d show ‘em.” All three boys pretend to be holding guns. POW, BAM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.

Voice Over: “Everybody having a gun so that they can shoot the bad guys is an immature, juvenile fantasy that needs to be limited to kids in a tree house.

In the real world untrained people dreaming of being heroes by wandering around with real, loaded guns only gets lots of people shot. This is not Dodge City. More guns risk everyone’s lives.”

Countering The “We Need To Be Ready To Repel The Black Helicopters” Argument

You can’t.

Anyone who thinks that it’s logical and reasonable for everybody to have an assault rifle in order to

(i) counter a realistic risk of a foreign invasion, or

(ii) so that citizen-patriots can be ready to mount an armed rebellion against our elected government

is not going to change their minds, ever.

You might as well try to convince someone who believes that the earth is flat or that Elvis is still alive or that the moon landing was an elaborate hoax that they’re wrong.

All you can do is ignore that demographic and hope that they make up only a few percentage points of the voting public.


Don’t attack your opponent with arguments that would work on you if you were on the other side because the other side is not made up of people like you.

Don’t promote a gun-control measure with the “widows and orphans” argument because that only works on the people who already agree with you.

Tailor your attack to neutralize the major ideas that are convincing to the people who actually are on the other side, namely, the notion that if we turned Los Angeles into Wyatt Earp’s Dodge City then everybody would be so much safer.

–David Grace

To see a searchable list of all David Grace’s columns in chronological order, CLICK HERE

To see a list of David Grace’s columns sorted by topic/subject matter, CLICK HERE.


Summary of the major provisions of the “Safety For All” initiative according to WWW.http://safetyforall.com

Prohibits possession of large-capacity magazines of 11 rounds or more and provides for their legal disposal.

Requires licensing of ammunition vendors and point-of-sale background checks for ammunition purchases.

If a person is convicted of a felony, a violent misdemeanor, has a restraining order or has been declared dangerously mentally ill, they will no longer be able to buy ammunition in California.

Defines a clear firearms relinquishment process for those convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor.

Requires firearm owners to notify law enforcement if their firearm has been lost or stolen.

Mandates that California share data with the FBI/NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System).

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Written by

Graduate of Stanford University & U.C. Berkeley Law School. Author of 17 novels and over 200 Medium columns on Economics, Politics, Law, Humor & Satire.

David Grace Columns Organized By Topic

David Grace columns contained in topic sections

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