It should come as no surprise to anyone following the news that we have a full-blown clash of values brewing over gun-control in America, a fight where people of goodwill disagree over the fundamental moral issues at play.
The fight doesn’t break along party lines, either. Ten New York state Republican state senators voted in favor of Andrew Cuomo’s gun control measure, while Democratic congressman Bill Owens opposes most firearm regulations.
President Barack Obama pushed the gun control argument hard again last night in his state of the union address.
I’m not going to wade into the point-by-point arguments that shape each side’s positions.
But I do want to pick apart the optics of the fight — and, yes, this is another imbroglio where I think conservatives are getting their hats handed to them.
Let me say again: It’s entirely possible to be a grounded, values-driven American familiar with the US constitution and the current state of violence in our country and land on either side of this issue.
I know people on both sides who are smart, wise and informed.
Which is why it’s bizarre that gun advocates are fielding their current crop of zanies to defend their views on 2nd amendment rights.
Tuesday in Albany, Conservative flame-thrower Carl Paladino blasted Albany for passing new gun control measures, before publicly flipping off one of the state’s most high profile journalists.
Meanwhile, this week a House congressman announced that he planned to bring heavy metal goofball Ted Nugent to last night’s State of the Union address. Nugent was there, looking like a guy sitting on a pin cushion.
It’s not that these guys don’t have a right to speak out. Of course they do. But does anyone really believe that they’re the right folks to tell the story that gun supporters want told?
Meanwhile, gun control advocates are fielding people who — whatever you think of their arguments — appear and sound sane, sympathetic and middle-of-the-road. In an optics battle, Gabby Giffords tops Ted Nugent every time.
That family from Chicago who lost their daughter to gunfire in a city park? Yeah, they play on TV better than Paladino’s bird.
There’s an old saying that the medium is the message. I’m going to bend that a little and say that the messenger becomes the message.
The left used to have this problem. Conservatives still mutter about Jane Fonda and they try to plaster a couple of pathetic Black Panther wannabes on the front of the Drudge site.
But the truth is that liberals have mostly figured out that if you want to drag the middle of America to your side, you put a face on the problem that feels sympathetic and positive and warm.
Part of this is an echo chamber problem. If you float in the white, conservative, NRA, Fox News mediasphere, having a couple of vein-pounding loudmouths fighting for what you view as your God given rights may seem like a good thing.
One Republican lawmaker from Putnam county reportedly urged Paladino to “give them hell” just before Paladino called out Republican majority leader Dean Skelos a “cowardly bum.” That’s giving someone hell, all right.
Of course, the optics haven’t been all wrong for Team NRA. Gun-fans scored a victory when conservative activist Gayle Trotter argued before congress that firearms are a sort of equalizer, allowing women to protect themselves from criminals.
Again, her claims are open to debate.
But she’s clearly a more sympathetic, approachable face for the anti-gun control side of this argument. If gun fans want to avoid losing ground on this issue, they’ll find more messengers like that, and fewer like Paladino and Nugent.
Right now, gun control advocates have sympathetic, human and non-