As part of “turning loose” his massive campaign apparatus on a number of policy fronts, President Obama appears to be directing a language overhaul as part of his gun-control agenda.
In a recent press conference with Joe Biden, The Atlantic‘s Molly Ball observes that neither President Obama nor Vice President Biden used the term “gun control.” Instead, they referred to their agenda as one of “gun-violence prevention.”
An editorial posted on Barack Obama’s website yesterday reinforced Ball’s observation; Jim Messina penned “Stand with the President to reduce gun violence,” and never once used the term “gun control.”
Ball listed a series of alternative terms the left has been using, with her opinion about the drawbacks for the anti-gun advocates:
1. Gun-violence prevention: This one has found favor with the president and his top allies. The Center for American Progress this week put out a memo urging supporters to use the term.
Drawbacks: It’s more words and syllables than “gun control.” It lacks specificity — preventing gun violence could apply to approaches that don’t involve regulating firearms at all — and sounds like what it is: a cumbersome euphemism.
2. Gun safety: Also showing up in a lot of headlines today, this term puts the emphasis on the idea that guns are fine, they just have to be handled wisely.
Drawbacks: It sounds like the title of a firearms-training course, which it often is. Confusing.
3. Firearms regulation: Those seeking maximum precision sometimes call on this multisyllabic mouthful, which makes the subject crystal clear.
Drawbacks: If you’re trying to avoid setting off alarm bells among the conservative-minded who might react poorly to “control,” “regulation” isn’t much of an improvement.
4. Illegal guns: New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s advocacy group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, chose this phrase for its name in 2006, reflecting its initial emphasis on background checks and gun trafficking.
Drawbacks: Where some of the other terms are too vague, this one risks being too specific, applying only to those firearms that have already been outlawed. As the mayors’ group has broadened its focus, its supporters have become more apt to use “gun-violence prevention” as well.
5. Criminal access to guns: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel lobbied for this phrase in a talk at the Center for American Progress on Monday, with the reasoning that even staunch Second Amendment supporters don’t believe criminals should be able to get guns.
Drawbacks: A mouthful. And like “illegal guns,” it seems to narrow the focus to issues like background checks that may not be activists’ only goal.
Ball appears to have a favorite alternative; she employed the term “firearm regulation” in the preface to her piece. The same day she posted her article, she sarcastically tweeted about the NRA:
A commenter on The Atlantic’s piece added a sixth suggestion: “self-defense prevention.”