Gun Control Needs a Brand



Originally published in Applied Arts Magazine, 2013



Gun control advocates are on the side of the angels. Now they need to develop a brand to combat the propaganda perpetrated by a minority of loudmouth bigots

Since December 14, 2012, the day of the Newtown shooting, America has been convulsed in a highly charged debate about what appears to the rest of the world to be a glaring need for gun control.

This is not the first time a mass shooting or assassination has reopened the argument, but it is becoming the one most fiercely waged to date. And so far the gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, owns the debate hands down.

The gun lobby’s brand is built on inflammatory rhetoric, distorted constitutional logic and deep-rooted political influence. Its messages are often blatant lies crafted by paranoid ideologues, as can be seen in the example immediately below. Displaying a monstrous lack of compassion, this message was posted by the National Gun Rights Association just days after the Newtown shooting. When seen with the chart below it, the audacity of the NAGR’s lie is exceeded only by the callousness of its timing.


The fact is that states with the highest gun ownership rates have a gun murder rate 114 per cent higher than those with the lowest gun ownership rates. Despite the fact that more than 1,500 people have been killed by guns in the United States since Newtown, the gun lobby, led by the NRA, is the leading brand in this war of words and images.

One of the more misguided rhetorical twists of this campaign is the radical right’s effort to paint gun control advocates as communists and fascists. After President Obama promised to use his executive powers to impose new gun controls, the gun lobby has liberally misappropriated the visual language of Bolshevik propaganda to denounce him as a dictator cut from the same cloth as Stalin and Hitler. I really want to believe that the average American is intelligent enough not to fall for this crap, but you know how the saying goes: if your repeat something often enough, people will start to believe it. Or at least subconsciously internalize it.


The gun lobby has been consistent, relentless and focused in its messaging and its abuse of the Second Amendment. But if 74 per cent of Americans favour a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, and most support stricter gun controls, where, I ask, is the gun control brand? 

There has certainly been an explosion of journalistic responses to the lies and propaganda perpetrated by the gun lobby. Most of it is cogent and well researched, compared to the flat-out, unapologetic rhetoric served up by the NRA and its cohort. But there has been no concerted effort to engage with the NRA in the world of paid media or social media. And let’s face it, people don’t take the time to read long articles. They need sound bites. 

If the bad guys are going to continue to have the loudest voice in this arena, the good guys need a brand. So here’s an idea: wouldn’t it be a fantastic thing if some of the most creative minds in the business, the leading lights of marketing communications and media, the art directors, writers, brand strategists, designers and digerati got together to right the wrongs being perpetrated by a minority of loudmouthed bigots? 

Here’s a chance for the creative elite to make a brand with real, tangible value. One that might even save some lives and make America safe for democracy again. wn

will novosedlik