In most public-policy debates, advocates conduct thorough research, develop a flexible framework to solve problems and then battle to achieve, one step at a time, the politically feasible components. In addition, advocates routinely develop working coalitions of individuals and organizations that share their concerns or are affected by their issues. To its long-term detriment, the gun-control movement has failed to replicate this successful strategy.
Implementation of the regulatory approach outlined in this study requires that those dedicated to reducing firearms violence reassess their own understanding of the issue and dramatically reorient the way it has been presented to the general public. The first steps include:
- Establishing a long-term public-education media campaign to change the public’s perception of gun violence. It must be understood that crime is merely the most recognized aspect of the public-health problem posed by firearms. The campaign should also be designed to educate citizens about the risks associated with firearms ownership.
- Support for new and ongoing research into firearms violence, its causes and effects and the economic costs associated with it.
- Recruitment of individuals and organizations not traditionally involved in the debate. Gun-control organizations must reach out to build active, long-term coalitions with organizations whose constituencies are affected by firearms violence, including women’s groups, youth organizations, civil-rights organizations, consumer organizations and public-health associations. Support should also be sought from those with economic interests in reducing firearms violence, such as the insurance industry, hospital associations and criminal-justice associations.
It is fortuitous that the end of the battle over the Brady bill coincides with a new administration that supports the idea of gun control. The citizens of the United States now have a fresh opportunity to reshape the debate, abandoning the tired cliches and dictums that have dominated it to date. This study is written not in the naive expectation that its recommendations will be quickly or even wholly adopted but in the belief that it offers the last, best hope to reduce firearms violence in America.