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FUNshoot News - Emotional Appeal

FUNshoot News - Emotional Appeal
By FUNshoot News • Issue #33 • View online
A newsletter for the modern pafisto.
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Survey of gun study validity
TL;DW: The quality of research studying firearm legislation is poor. There is no good data validating legislation regarding any firearm access policy. Even the very few valid studies (which are largely ignored due to not having “exciting” findings) have flaws. Increased or decreased access to firearms has no discernable correlation to any increase or decrease in crime. Click for more details on this.
Do Studies Show Gun Control Works?
Do Studies Show Gun Control Works?
Emotional Appeal
When the facts don’t match your position, you have two options:
  1. Change your position to be in line with the facts.
  2. Go for emotional appeal.
Inept people with political motivations commonly choose option two and that is not limited to any particular political party or ideology depending on the particular issue. Given this newsletter is about firearm stuff, we’ll look at how an emotional appeal approach works with gun control.
First, let’s review what the Centers for Disease Control reports about the rate of homicide in the United States on a per-capita basis from 1950 to 2018 and how it compares to deaths due to automobiles and suicide:
CDC data: Automobile (top, blue), suicide (center, yellow), homicide (bottom, gray)
CDC data: Automobile (top, blue), suicide (center, yellow), homicide (bottom, gray)
From left, actual causes, Google searches, and media coverage
From left, actual causes, Google searches, and media coverage
Deaths from automobiles and suicide have always been higher, despite the steady decline in automobile deaths over the decades. The trend of the overall homicide rate (all causes, including firearms) in the United States has been that after spiking in the 1970s and again in 1990, it has been on a downward decline since 1990, reaching historic lows by 2014 and staying close there since. Reports of recent “spikes in violent crime” are due to slight upticks from that historic low rate.
That’s what’s actually happening. Note, this steady downward decline happened before the 1994 AWB (Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act or Federal Assault Weapons Ban) was passed and continued downward after that law sunset in 2004. This occurred while provisions for the concealed carry of handguns in public increased throughout the United States. Also note, this data is from the CDC, the same organization that has since declared firearm ownership is a “public health crisis”.
The Causes of death in the US chart above is from On left are the percentage breakdowns of the actual causes of death in order of the likelihood of occurrence, leading with Heart Disease (30.2%), Cancer (29.5%), Road Incidents (7.8%), Lower Respiratory Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes. Suicide is near the bottom of that list (1.8%). Terrorism and Homicide added together comprise 0.91% of total actual deaths. However, the New York Times and The Guardian reporting on Homicide and Terrorism constitute about 58% of their coverage, while Heart Disease and Cancer combined constitute about 15%.
And that’s the issue with an emotional appeal: it ignores facts and creates a ridiculously large amount of attention to rare events while ignoring real and important issues.
Emotional Appeal in Practice
Some examples of how this works in practice.
Steve Booth-Butterfield created, self-described as “Healthy Influence is the new way to get what you want … with words. Take years of persuasion science out of the research labs, test it in the real world, then translate it into tools for action.”
For that organization, Frank O'Brien, Al Quinlan, et. al. published a “messaging guide”. This was described as being “… intended to help organizations and individuals choose effective arguments and language when communicating with the public on behalf of stronger public policies to prevent gun violence.” Some key points from that guide:
Preventing Gun Violence Through Effective Messaging
Alarming facts open the door to action. And powerful stories put feeling and emotional energy behind those facts. It’s not helpful to try to drown your audience in a flurry of facts and statistics. It’s not just about words. Powerful and emotionally-engaging images are vitally important reinforcers of strong messages.
Overall Messaging Guidance
Always focus on emotional and value-driven arguments…
Tell stories with images and feelings.
Claim moral authority…
Key Messaging Principles
Always start with the pain and anguish
Use statistics to reinforce an emotional argument
Use images that bring your message home
Tell stories with feeling and energy
Assault Weapons and Accessories in America
VPC (Violence Policy Center) published a position paper demonstrating this same emotional appeal regarding so-called assault weapons. Realizing their anti-handgun approach was failing as more States adopted concealed carry laws and how the data about that contradicted their previous emotional appeal of how increased concealed carry among citizens would resort to “Wild West lawlessness and violence”, VPC decided to instead go after assault weapons. Not because they’re actually used more often than handguns in the commission of crimes, but because of their “scary” appearance and the public’s misunderstanding make them an easier target for legislative restriction. I kept the most relevant bits here. Read the full conclusion at:
Assault weapons are increasingly being perceived by legislators, police organizations, handgun restriction advocates, and the press as a public health threat… Because of this fact, assault weapons are quickly becoming the leading topic of America’s gun control debate and will most likely remain the leading gun control issue for the near future. Such a shift will not only damage America’s gun lobby, but strengthen the handgun restriction lobby.
Assault weapons—just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms—are a new topic. The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these weapons… many who support the individual’s right to own a handgun have second thoughts when the issue comes down to assault weapons. Assault weapons are often viewed the same way as machine guns and “plastic” firearms—a weapon that poses such a grave risk that it’s worth compromising a perceived constitutional right.
Defining an assault weapon—in legal terms—is not easy. It’s not merely a matter of going after guns that are “black and wicked looking.” Although those involved in the debate know the weapons being discussed, it’s extremely difficult to develop a legal definition that restricts the availability of assault weapons without affecting legitimate semi-automatic guns. Most likely, any definition would focus on magazine capacity, weapon configuration, muzzle velocity, the initial purpose for which the weapon (or its full-auto progenitor) was developed, convertibility, and possible sporting applications. Any law based on this definition would, however, need to have a clause to excuse legitimate semi-automatic weapons that would inadvertently fall under it. And although legislation could be passed that would ban specific weapons, the world’s arms manufacturers are expert at producing weapons that follow the letter, but not the intent, of the law. This often results in products that are virtually identical to the restricted weapon, yet different enough to remain on the market. [Emphasis added.]
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