Gun Messaging

Voicing Our Values—To Curtail Gun Violence

This is an addendum to our book, Voicing Our Values: A Message Guide for Candidates. Our purpose is to help lawmakers, candidates and activists understand how to argue in favor of current proposals to curtail gun violence. As we explain here, we have tried to make this resource as easy-to-use as possible by placing model language in boxes throughout. We encourage you to adapt the language to your own voice and personalize it with your own knowledge and experience. Much more comprehensive, detailed or technical talking points are available from advocacy groups listed at the end of this paper.


Our most important advice: (1) Lay out the problem in very simple termsmost Americans have no idea how easy our laws make it for dangerous people to buy handguns and assault weapons; (2) Don’t let pro-gun advocates sidetrack the debate into “straw man” arguments, obscure “facts,” or a focus on the technical properties of gunsabout 90 percent of their arguments are actually designed to change the subject so you need to insist on a debate that is relevant to the legislation at hand; and (3) Generally:

Don’t say . . .

Say . . .

Gun control

Stricter gun laws

You oppose the 2nd Amendment


Preventing gun violence

Stronger gun laws

Support for the 2nd Amendment goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people

Why . . .

People have negative reactions to “gun control” and “stricter” laws, and they feel positive about the 2nd Amendment. Also, average voters have a favorable view of the National Rifle Association (NRA). You are welcome to criticize the NRA when speaking to the progressive base, but it won’t help you persuade swing voters. That’s why these talking points don’t include anti-NRA language. If the situation requires you to attack the NRA, then condemn “NRA lobbyists” or the “NRA’s out-of-touch leaders.” Do not attack average NRA members or local NRA leaders; that language doesn’t work.

NEXT:  How to introduce your argument


Do you like this page?