1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Changing public opinion via demonstrations

Discussion in 'Activism Discussion and Planning' started by JohnKSa, May 31, 2014.

  1. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Well-Known Member

    We've seen a number of high-profile OC actions that have been received negatively by the general public, not just by the anti-gunners. I think we can all agree that expending effort to support a strategy that ends up being self-defeating is undesirable.

    I've been thinking about this for awhile and have tried to come up with a loose framework of guidelines for developing strategies designed to positively influence the genera public.

    1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Put forth genuine effort to learn what you're up against. I'm not talking about trying to feel out the anti-gunners; we already know what they want and there's no way we're going to make them happy. This is about gathering enough information from members of the general public to get an idea of how they will likely perceive certain actions.

    Ask objective (non-leading) questions in neutral environments to see what people think about recent events in the news. That means this kind of research can't be conducted while OC'ing. It shouldn't be done while wearing your "Cold Dead Hands" T-shirt. Don't push your views or argue any points when you're gathering information, you're not evangelizing, you're doing research.

    WRITE the results down as soon after the exchange as possible. Don't trust your memory to give you an accurate summary of a number of "interviews".

    Look around online. Not just at the websites you frequent, but at some of the websites you would normally avoid. It's important to have a general understanding the variety of views out there.

    Look at poll results to get a feel for the numerical breakdown of how people are likely to think and react to your strategy.

    This step is hard, it takes time and effort and isn't fun, but it isn't one that can be skipped. If our goal is to be a positive influence, it's critical to understand how our actions will be perceived by those we wish to positively influence. The alternative is blind trial and error, and it's an understatement to call that a foolish strategy.

    2. GET ADVICE. A wise man once said that "Plans go wrong for lack of advice but many advisors bring success." That does NOT mean to consult a circle of like-minded friends; it means seeking counsel from a wide variety of persons with a wide variety of views. Not everyone who is consulted has to be happy with the resulting plan (it's impossible to satisfy everyone), but the planner needs to carefully consider all the points of view in the process of creating a strategy.

    It's important to understand how critical this step is. The same wise man stated that everything fools do seems right to them but a wise person listens to advice. It's NOT enough to look at a plan and judge it exclusively based on how you, personally (or other people with nearly identical views), feel about it. Remember, a sound strategy requires wise guidance and success depends on having many advisors.

    3. COMMUNICATE CLEARLY. Make sure that everything done has a clear, easily understood, easily stated goal that will make sense to the general public--the group we are trying to positively influence. Avoid jargon, cliches and catch-phrases that may be familiar to firearm enthusiasts but foreign to the general public. This lesson was driven home recently to me when my gun club put out some club T-shirts with the motto 'RKBA' on them. It was surprising how many people, even some in the club, had to ask what 'RKBA' stood for. Remember, the message isn't being sent to you or people who think like you. You have to keep your audience in mind.

    If a particular activity can't be summed up clearly or can't be shown to be directly related to a desired outcome, drop it. The goals must be kept in the forefront and it should be easy to clearly state why you or your group is doing something if someone asks.

    Make sure that everyone working with you understands the goals and is on board with the plan. Plan for the possibility of your group members being asked to explain their actions.

    There should be an obvious appearance of order and strategy to outside observers and that kind of organization doesn't come automatically or accidentally.

    4. FORM GUIDELINES AND ENFORCE THEM. Make sure that there are rules that everyone working towards your strategy understands and agrees to uphold. Enforce the rules. Don't welcome just anyone to join your cause and don't tolerate those who refuse to cooperate or won't agree to the guidelines. Any participant in a demonstration may, at the drop of a hat, end up being a de facto spokesman for you and everyone who is working with you. Don't be fooled into thinking that the strength of numbers can make up for the disadvantages created by rogue members.

    It's too late to come up with rules AFTER a public opinion SNAFU.
  2. Dain Bramage

    Dain Bramage Well-Known Member

    Excellent advice. We disagreed on the Colorado OC case, but I am on board with RKBA activists being skilled, totally focused on message including appearance and repercussions, and politically savvy.

    We have been generally successful recently in a sort of mob rule sense, with things like CCW expansion. With anti-gun pushback, the day has come for a sharper, more astute strategy.
    Last edited: May 31, 2014
  3. moxie

    moxie Well-Known Member

    OC demos with slung ARs only scare a lot of people and make their loved ones angry.

    This irresponsible behavior just makes all of us look stupid and sets the gun rights cause back a lot.


    Here's the best strategy: Stop this OC silliness!!
  4. JRH6856

    JRH6856 Well-Known Member

    While it is possible that carefully planned and organized OC demonstrations may be conducted without being offensive to a majority of people, what is not possible is controlling irresponsible individual imitators who learn they can OC a rifle and think it would be a cool thing to do. So they load up and head for Chipotle's and become poster boys for idiocy.
  5. CoalTrain49

    CoalTrain49 Well-Known Member

    That's a very good idea. Here are some questions that might be asked by the public or someone who is AG. I already know the answers.

    1) Why are you demonstrating to legalize open carry when you are already legally carrying a firearm.

    2) Why do you feel a need to openly carry a handgun?

    3) Do you want the right to open carry to avoid the background check that goes with a permit?

    4) Why do you have to carry a firearm when you demonstrate?

    5) Are you affiliated with the NRA?

    6) Is that an assault weapon?

    You need to anticipate questions like that and have a reasonable reply.
  6. Mainsail

    Mainsail Well-Known Member

    What's wrong with just carrying your handgun in a holster openly and going about your business politely? If you, as a gun owner and carrier, act as though your sidearm is somehow exceptional or peculiar, how on earth can you dare to expect the non-gun owning public to see it any different?

    Just holster it and carry it.
  7. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator

    In general, nothing -- assuming it's legal. Although there may be times or places in which doing so might not be appropriate -- just like there are times and places where certain attire would not be appropriate.

    But that's really beside the point. John is discussing using demonstrations (not necessarily limited to the open carry of firearms) to stimulate desired social or political change.

    Now let's try to avoid derailing John's thread by bickering about it.
  8. Mainsail

    Mainsail Well-Known Member

    Yeah. So am I.

    We "demonstrated" in a peaceful, non-intimidating, and effective manner by refusing to play into the anti-gun idea that guns are scary or shameful or only owned by paranoid lunatics. When I left a convenience store after buying a drink or snack, the clerk and other patrons saw a regular guy carrying a handgun in a holster who was polite, friendly, and as far from threatening as any person could be.

    In the small-scale of people around me, I saw a positive change.

    Now, how about we get back to my genuine question; If you, as a gun owner and carrier, act as though your sidearm is somehow exceptional or peculiar, how on earth can you dare to expect the non-gun owning public to see it any different?
  9. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator

    You seem to think so. But I reject your unsupported, purely anecdotal views. You no doubt believe what you're saying, but I won't accept it without far better evidence than you're able to offer.
  10. Mainsail

    Mainsail Well-Known Member

    That’s the second time you’ve posted that somewhat silly argument Frank. Short of commissioning a full study it’s impossible to get any better than anecdotal- but you know that.

    How about you instead provide objective evidence that what we did here in Washington (and others did in other states) doesn’t work? I’m sure you could point out the yahoos in that restaurant with their rifles at the ready, and say that set back our rights, but then that would also be anecdotal as well wouldn’t it. It also wouldn’t be apt.

    Civil rights demonstrations throughout US history have used a variety of methods; sit-ins, marches, boycotts, civil disobedience, and even violence were used as a vehicle of change. Which of those would work best for firearms rights? We can’t even get pro-gun people to boycott actively anti-gun businesses (Costco for example)!

    And still, my question remains: If you, as a gun owner and carrier, act as though your sidearm is somehow exceptional or peculiar, how on earth can you dare to expect the non-gun owning public to see it any different?
  11. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Well-Known Member

    Maybe nothing. Maybe something.

    Here's my advice for determining which it is in your particular circumstance.
    That's not how it works in a polite debate. The person making the claim must support the claim. What you are doing is called the "Burden of Proof" fallacy. A claim doesn't become valid merely because it is stated, thus forcing others to refute it. When a claim is made, it is considered invalid until the person who makes it can support it.

    You can get better than simple anecdotal evidence if you really put forth the effort to discover the truth. The FIRST step is stepping back and admitting that maybe you don't already KNOW the truth. Recent events in TX have proven that people can THINK they know that something will be a good strategy and still be wrong.

    Remember, "The same wise man stated that everything fools do seems right to them but a wise person listens to advice. It's NOT enough to look at a plan and judge it exclusively based on how you, personally (or other people with nearly identical views), feel about it. Remember, a sound strategy requires wise guidance and success depends on having many advisors."
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2014
  12. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator

    I know what it takes to know something. And without appropriate evidence and appropriate studies, you can't know something. You can only guess. That how people believed for centuries that the Earth was flat and the center of the universe. Guesses aren't knowledge. At best you have a hypothesis, and a hypothesis must be tested.

    If all you have is poor evidence, all you can really say is, "I don't know."

    You're making the affirmative claim, so it's your burden to prove it.

    Ah, the Civil Rights Movement corollary to Godwin's Law.

    Let's consider why the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s is a poor model for the struggle for the RKBA.

    • Overview of the Civil Rights Movement

      • The core and very effective part of the overall strategy of the Civil Rights Movement (referring to the struggle during the 1950s and 1960s for racial equality) was non-violent civil disobedience, winning wide and deep support for that cause.

      • The acts of civil disobedience, involved very normal, benign, human acts: taking a seat on a bus for the ride home after a hard day at work; sitting at a lunch counter to have a meal; a child registering to attend school; registering to vote; voting; etc. These are normal, every day thing that White folks took for granted. And it became profoundly disturbing for many White to see other humans arrested for doing these normal, benign things simply because of the color of their skin.

      • The Civil Rights Movement of the '50s was the culmination of 100+ years of abolitionist and civil rights activity. It had broad and deep support. The goals of the Civil Rights Movement were promoted regularly in sermons in churches and synagogues all across the nation. The Civil Rights Movement had charismatic leaders like Martin Luther King who could inspire the country.

      • During the days of the Civil Rights Movement of the '50s and '60s, civil disobedience, as favorably reported by the mainstream media, and as favorably commented upon on college campuses and in sermons in houses of worship across the nation, helped generate great public sympathy for the cause. That sympathy helped lead to the election of pro-civil rights legislators and executives. And that led to the enactment of pro-civil rights laws.

      • On the other hand how has the public thus far responded to the thus far minimal "civil disobedience" of RKBA advocates?

        • Where have there been any great outpourings of sympathy for the plight of gun owners, especially from non-gun owners -- as whites showed sympathy for the plight of non-whites during the days of the Civil Rights Movement?

        • Where are the editorials in the New York Times lauding the courage of gun owners in their resistance to the oppression of anti-gun prejudice?

        • Who has heard a pro-gun rights sermon in his church? Where are the pro-gun rights rallies on college campuses?

        • Where are non-gun owners joining with gun owners in pro-gun rights demonstrations, just as whites joined with non-whites in marches and demonstrations during the Civil Rights Movement? Where are our charismatic leaders inspiring the nation?

    • A Particular Example -- Rosa Parks

      • Rosa Parks had a long history of being actively involved in the organized Civil Rights Movement:

      • At the time of her arrest Mrs. Parks was an adviser to the NAACP.

      • On 1 December 1955, Rosa Parks was the third African-American since March of that year to be arrested for violating the Montgomery bus segregation law. One was Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old girl who was arrested some nine months earlier. E. D. Nixon decided that Claudette would be a poor "poster-child" for a protest because she was unmarried and pregnant.

      • The night of Mrs. Parks' arrest, Jo Ann Robinson, head of the Women's Political Council, printed and circulated a flyer throughout Montgomery's black community starting the call for a boycott of Montgomery's city buses.

      • Martin Luther King, Jr., as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association and pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, together with other Black community leaders, then organized the boycott of the Montgomery bus system. That boycott reduced Black ridership (the bulk of the bus system's paying customers) of Montgomery city buses by some 90% until December of 1956 when the Supreme Court ruled that the bus segregation laws of Montgomery, Alabama were unconstitutional (Gayle v. Browder, 352 U.S. 903 (1956)).

      • So the Rosa Parks incident is more than a matter of not moving to the back of the bus. Her arrest was part of a well orchestrated, well organized, multilayered program reflecting good planning and political acumen leading to a successful conclusion. If it had not been she would have just been another Black person arrested for violating that ordinance.

      • Please note especially that prior to the Rosa Parks incident E. D. Nixon rejected one "arrestee" as standard bearer for the protect because of possible image problems.
  13. nazshooter

    nazshooter Well-Known Member

    That's pretty much how it worked on me when I moved to an OC state. The first few people I saw carrying made me a little nervous but after a while I noticed that the sorts of people I saw carrying appeared to fall into the "good guy" category.
  14. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator

    So? Are you "everyone"? Why would everyone else necessarily share your reactions?
  15. JRH6856

    JRH6856 Well-Known Member

    One glaring difference between the two movements is that while the '60s civil rights protesters were trying to do the same things that most people were doing, the OTC protesters are trying to do what most people are not doing.

    And the big difference between a man with black skin and a man with a gun is that the man with a gun has a choice.
  16. nazshooter

    nazshooter Well-Known Member

    I don't think I ever claimed to be "everyone" however it's unlikely that I'm completely unique either. The basics of desensitization aren't exactly new and I think most people have had the experience of being afraid of something (or someone for that matter) but then losing your fear as you got used to it.
  17. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    The OP has laid out a very sensible way to use OC to sway public opinion. He has also laid out why some of the grandstanding that has gone on lately has hurt our cause. It boggles my mind why some folks cannot see the differences.

    If one wants to OC to help sway public opinion they need to consider many things, only one of which is what is the culture of the place you want to do so in, and exactly how and what you are going to OC. Are you ready if pushed into a hypothetical corner with questions? Are you going to look threatening to this culture you wish to OC in? How can you avoid that?

    It is not a cut and dried issue. It can be done, and can be done successfully, but it needs to be done with care and foresight, not just blatant "I have my right to do so" without and care as to how it is going to be perceived and what the likely outcome will be considering the manner in which it will be done.

    We have to be smart about this if we do it. Activism is about having a plan, not about arguing about can we or should we, but how we should and why we should, or not, in some circumstances.
  18. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

    Certainly true in many cases. Not necessarily true in all, but I think everyone would agree that over a long enough time line, if the exposure is allowed to continue, the result is inevitable acceptance.

    The risk is in ramping up exposure pressure too fast and in too much of an overwhelming way and creating a backlash which causes the exposure to NOT be allowed to continue. I.e.: ticking off enough folks that laws get passed to stop you from practicing your desensitization efforts -- and create other negative results for all gun owners.

    It is a balance we have to walk carefully, with our eyes open.

    Exactly. The sort of day-to-day sidearm carry that Mainsail and others practice is probably a net positive, in his area. At least, it can't be said to be a distinct negative. There may be a day when openly carried handguns are completely unexceptional in almost all of the country. At that point, if there's still some perceived need to push open carry acceptance further, perhaps introducing long-guns might be a reasonable means to that end (if there is something worth pursuing in that goal). Rifles might be the next incremental step in broadening public acceptance/desensitization. But that's no where near where we're at in 95% of the country. Even Texas! ;)

    The problem in Texas, where open carry of handguns is illegal, is that folks are trying to work the other way. Jump to carrying long guns as a means to get open carry allowed. The problem is that's jumping far too far ahead of where we are right now and is not any step on a clear, logical path from where we are to where we want to be. It bothers way too many people, turns neutrals to antis and doesn't "read" as sensible to any average onlooker. Texans are clearly in a tough spot trying to broaden public acceptance for something that they aren't legally allowed to do (open carry of handguns) but this current experiment is proving a disastrous way to attempt to meet their goals.
  19. moxie

    moxie Well-Known Member

    Sam, nice analysis.

    Yes, as I've stated, handguns aren't a big issue. Many don't care and most don't even notice.

    The RIFLES are the problem. When 5-6 guys enter a restaurant with ARs slung, some in front, some in back, it's not a normal situation. People get scared. There's no normal reason for it. This is backfiring on the cause of gun rights in general.

    The NRA has now come out against these OC demos with rifles. Good for them.

    I hope one of these OC demos doesn't result in a confrontation with concealed carry folks already in the restaurant who perceive them as threats. Could be a problem there.

    I hasten to add, again, that most people I know here in Texas, pro-gun people, many with CHLs, are perfectly happy with the status quo concealed carry situation since the laws were tweaked last year. Initial and renewal requirements were streamlined and inadvertent exposure/printing was clarified. Most don't want OC and view it as inflammatory, playing into the hands of the antis. The OCT group is NOT representative of the majority of Texas gun owners/carriers.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2014
  20. Mainsail

    Mainsail Well-Known Member

    Suddenly it's poor evidence? That sure sounds like an affirmative claim- I wonder how one should handle such a claim?

    Good timing Frank! Go ahead and prove it's poor evidence- the burden is on you.

    Seriously though; all of history is anecdotal evidence. Where did General Armstrong Custer die? Ask people, they will unanimously say; he died at the battle at Little Bighorn. How do they know that? Anecdotal evidence.

    I have experiential evidence as well. When we began to open carry the police reaction always involved a stop- disarming- lecture- threat- and an invitation to leave the area. We kept right on carrying openly. The city of Federal Way was one of the first to issue its officers a training bulletin on the subject. Very quickly other cities did the same. Those training bulletins are documented evidence of the shift in police attitude about and due to open carry. Those training bulletins did not exist prior to OC, and would never have been issued without open carry. The benefits went beyond firearms though, because it reminded police officers that 'reasonable articulable suspicion' is still a requirement for a Terry Stop- something they do daily.

    You've latched onto 'evidence' as though your personal disbelief somehow cancels out my entire argument. I've now demonstrated that everything you believe about history is anecdotal evidence- I think even you would agree that not everything can be proven. So whether you believe or disbelieve what we have seen is no longer relevant.

    My question remains: If you, as a gun owner and carrier, act as though your sidearm is somehow exceptional or peculiar, how on earth can you dare to expect the non-gun owning public to see it any different?

Share This Page