Anyone who’s written the words “gun control” since the push for gun violence prevention began in the wake of the Newtown shooting has received the emails. It’s not called “gun control” anymore, proponents of new and more stringent regulations on firearms write. Start calling it “gun safety.”
Gun control supporters say the term “gun safety” is less, well, loaded than “gun control,” the standard name for the push by groups like the Brady Campaign and others for decades. As part of their efforts to change the gun control push to make it more palatable politically, some are suggesting the phrase “gun control” be dropped once and for all.
During a brief press appearance on Thursday, Vice President Biden didn’t use the words “gun control” at all while talking about what actions the White House may push to help prevent future gun violence. But he did say “gun safety” three times in reference to groups like Brady, which favor new regulations on firearms.
The head of the Brady Campaign said gun control advocates have pushed to change the nomenclature. It’s another part of the movement’s attempt to learn the lessons of past defeats. Gun regulation advocates have promised to be more politically aggressive, punishing politicians who oppose their efforts and working to build the kind of financial and political infrastructure the gun rights community has relied on for years. Changing the wording is part of that process.
“I do think that unfortunately the term ‘gun control’ has become the short hand and marginalized to an extent,” Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, told TPM on Thursday. He said that the term draws less support in polls than the specific policies those in the movement are calling for, such as universal background checks. “Talking about it in terms of safety is we think a very important thing because that’s really what we’re for. Not what we’re against.”
Not all advocates for new gun regulation use the term “gun safety.” The Advancement Project, a group calling for a ban on so-called “assault weapons” and specifically opposing efforts by the National Rifle Association to put more armed guards in schools. The group is among those that have met with Biden’s gun violence task force and it favors the phrase “gun control.” For now.
“I could see a case for changing it. ‘Gun control’ has kind of a negative connotation. It almost implies taking something away, you know?” said Rich Robinson, spokesperson for the Advancement Project. “I think ‘gun safety’ makes good sense because ultimately that’s the goal right? It’s gun safety.”
“It’s funny, we’re still officially using the phrase ‘gun control’ in our literature right now,” Robinson said. “But I should actually talk to my boss about that.”