Vanity Fair recently interviewed Emma Brown, the new executive director of the gun control group Giffords, and as you might imagine, it wasn’t exactly full of hard-hitting questions. Reporter Eric Lutz never bothered to bring up things like Gabby Giffords proclaiming that the goal of the group is “no more guns“, senior advisor Ryan Busse’s double-talk on “assault weapons” bans, or even the growing number of Constitutional Carry states; instead lobbing softball after softball at Brown, allowing her to get in all of her talking points without having to concern herself with any mildly critical or skeptical questions.
Still, there are a few things worth noting in the magazine’s public relations contribution to the gun control group, starting with Brown’s attempt to rewrite the history of the gun control debate, which came in response to Lutz’s question about the current state of the gun control movement.
So first, a lot of people look at this issue and feel like we’re trying to push a boulder. But I think if you step back on it, it has been a tremendous amount of success in a short period of time. In the last 10 years, we have gotten from a place where guns were really on the third rail of politics to a place where it is a major component of the Biden-Harris reelection campaign. I have seen that evolution myself, up close in battleground states across the country over the last 10 years. So there’s really been a significant political development.
Secondly, we’ve passed over 600 gun-safety laws during the time that Giffords has existed, really improving the strength of safety laws across the country. And then obviously, in 2022, we saw the major federal gun-safety law passed, the first one in 30 years, breaking a big logjam. So I think when you look at all of that, and the history of social movements in the United States, this one is relatively young—and the gun lobby had a century head start, but we are making legal and policy strides. And the cultural and political progress, which is part of what we’re really after, is not far behind. That’s obviously thanks to the groups that have been organizing for many decades—our law center being one of them, along with some of the more recent groups like March for Our Lives and Mothers of the Movement. I think we have supercharged in the last decade.
Was gun control really a third rail for Democrats in 2014? Absolutely not. Barack Obama ran on a gun control platform in 2012, which included “reinstating the assault weapons ban and closing the gun show loophole”. The following year Dianne Feinstein and 24 other Senate Democrats introduced an “assault weapons” ban, while Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey proposed a bill expanding background checks. What has changed over the past ten years is that pro-gun Democrats, who were already a minority in their party in Congress, are now pretty much extinct on Capitol Hill, but it’s ridiculous for Brown to claim that gun control wasn’t something Democrats were willing to campaign on a decade ago.
Her assertion that the “gun lobby” has a 100-year head start on the gun control movement is even more ludicrous. According to conventional wisdom, the National Rifle Association wasn’t much of a political player until the Cincinnati Revolt in 1977, which was three years after the National Council to Control Handguns was created. The modern gun control debate really kicked off in the 1960s, and anti-gun voices were prominent starting with the debate on the Gun Control Act of 1968.
A more accurate statement would be that there’s a centuries-old tradition of keeping and bearing arms in this country, protected (but not established) by the Second Amendment in 1791, but it wasn’t until 60 or so years ago that opposition to the exercise of that right was institutionalized by the founding of groups like the National Council to Control Handguns. That doesn’t mean the gun lobby had a head start. It just means that gun control is a modern invention of the Left.
Brown didn’t just try to rewrite history in her sit-down with Vanity Fair. She also tried to craft a false narrative about why gun control has met with such stiff resistance over the past few decades.
I think if you step back, there is a big gulf in America, as you know, between public opinion and public policy on guns—and you ask yourself, If Americans believe that gun violence is a very big problem, and nearly all of Americans—90% of Republicans—support the same safety measures, how are these not law?
It is really for one reason: the corporate gun companies and the decades-long hold they’ve had on Congress and state legislatures. So for Giffords and for the larger movement in this next stage, we have to finally break that grip. That means continuing to put people in public office who will really prioritize safety over the gun lobby’s money. It also means holding bad actors accountable for their abuses. We’ve made a lot of progress on that, and you don’t need to look any further than the crumbling NRA. But we still live in an age where you can’t sue a gun company after a mass shooting in most cases and in most states. We still live in an age where a 21-year-old kid on TikTok is being served AR-15 content. So I would say that the impact of the lobby and its grip on our cultural and legal and legislative landscape in the United States is still strong. We still have a lot of work to do.
The gun control lobby simply can’t admit that their real opponents are the tens of millions of Second Amendment advocates across the United States who zealously guard their right to keep and bear arms and are well aware that there’s no such thing as banning our way to safety. They, like Joe Biden, have decided to make the firearms industry Public Enemy No. 1, even as they continue to work to turn the individual gun owners who exercise their rights into criminals for doing so.
I also found Brown’s examples of areas where she sees room for improvement fascinating. Yes, we already know that groups like Giffords want to sue gunmakers into oblivion by holding them accountable for the third-party actions of criminals, but referring to 21-year-old adults as “kids” and suggesting that firearms-related content on social media should be verboten demonstrates they have as much contempt for our First Amendment rights as they do the rights protected by the Second Amendment.
There’s a fundamental dishonesty to the gun control movement, which can’t even bring itself to utter that phrase anymore because they know it turns off voters. They lie when they say that more guns leads to more crime, they lie when they claim that concealed carry turns states into the Wild West, and they can’t even bother to tell the truth about the history of their own movement or where they want it to go in the future. Anti’s like Emma Brown will happily sit for a softball interview with the likes of Vanity Fair, but they can never allow themselves to be questioned by reporters who are capable and willing to push back against their false assertions. They can’t control their narrative in situations like that, so they’ll stick with the friendlies who’ll handle them with care and help them any way they can.