The N.R.A. had a press conference (Link to video on NYT.com) on Friday, December 21, 2012 to respond to the Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting in Connecticut where 20 children and 6 adults died. As a communication professional watching this was a surprise that the N.R.A. remains so tone deaf to how this tragedy is affecting the average person no matter on what line they are on in the gun control debate. The fact that it took a week for them to come up with the talking points that we should:
- Blame Movies and TV
- Blame Rap Music
- Blame Video Games
- Blame supporters of School Gun Free Zones
- Blame the victims for not having guns ready to defend themselves
- Blame schools for not having armed guards
The decision of the N.R.A. to stick to the talking points that worked in the past shows that they are not willing to accept that the death of small children will be the catalyst of change for gun control laws in the US. The only question will be what level of influence the Gun Manufacture Lobby will exert over this process. The speech they gave will not win them any converts over the next few months of debate.
Over the next weeks when we will be seeing the funerals of elementary age children who were (as reported in the news) shot multiple times this will be a flash point for citizens to rally around. This press conference instead of offering condolences and pledges to keep innocent kids safe has made the N.R.A. the ‘enemy’ of safety.
I would recommend that they immediately hire an outside damage control consultant to work on reworking their message. One where they admit that the Second Amendment can’t be held above innocent lives and that the safety of US citizens are just as important to the N.R.A. as to anyone mourning the loss of a loved one. If they do not recognize that they are not only antagonizing the public but giving Gun Control Advocates a rallying point they will do what their political opponents haven’t been able to do in decades the clout to pass real and substantive laws. Everything from trigger locks, additional fees for gun purchase/ownership, reversal of the law making gun manufacturers exempt from lawsuits and substantive gun laws prohibiting certain makes/models.