It’s Time to Retire the NRA’s “Good Guy with a Gun” Slogan

NOTE: An earlier, abbreviated version of this text appeared as an opinion essay in the Charlotte Observer/Raleigh News & Observer on June 16, 2022.

I am a defensive gun owner and a sociologist who has been studying American gun culture for a decade now. One of the first significant gun events I attended for my research was the 142nd National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meetings and exhibits. Held in May 2013 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, the conference set a record with over 85,000 NRA members attending.

Looking back today at the many pictures I took to document the spectacle, one stands out: a t-shirt for sale in the NRA meeting store that reads on the front in all caps, “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is . . .” The now familiar slogan concludes on the back, “a good guy with a gun.”

Created by Ackerman McQueen – the advertising agency that, with Wayne LaPierre, bears significant responsibility for the downfall of the NRA – the phrase debuted in the infamous NRA press conference following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December 2012.

I did not like it then. I like it even less now. For my thoughts on why, read on or watch this week’s Light Over Heat Video on YouTube.

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Results from the 2021 National Firearms Survey

A summary of results from the 2021 National Firearms Survey was posted to the SSRN site back in July. I confess to missing it the first time around because I thought it was the same National Firearms Survey that was fielded by scholars at Northeastern and Harvard Universities this year (results from which about firearm purchasing during the COVID pandemic I commented on recently).

It turns out this is a separate National Firearms Survey, fielded by William English, a political economist at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. I’m quite intrigued by the existence of this survey because I have never heard of William English in the field of gun studies and there is nothing in his scholarly background that indicates he would do work in this area.

To say this is certainly not a criticism of William English. People would have said the same about me 10 years ago, also. He seems to be an outsider to the field and I hope that will allow him to bring fresh perspectives to it.

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GVPedia: Armed with Facts or Rhetoric on Defensive Gun Use?

GVPedia (“Gun Violence Prevention” media) was created by Devin Hughes after his blog project with Evan DeFilippis, “Armed with Reason,” ran its course. Both projects have sought to “arms policymakers, advocates, and the public with facts and data to create evidence-based policy to reduce gun violence.”

Unfortunately, as sometimes happens when facts and data are bootstrapped to pre-existing policy positions, rhetoric can overrun reason. This is unfortunate because it harms the credibility of the source and builds walls where we need productive conversations.

I saw this in a recent video GVPedia pushed out about defensive gun uses (DGUs). The video claims to explain “why relying on ‘good guys’ with guns to stop ‘bad guys’ with guns doesn’t make us safer. #ArmedWithFacts.”

This sub-2 minute video is actually just a teaser for 2 longer videos posted by GVPedia, but there is nothing here that gives me confidence that I should invest time and energy watching the other two. In fact, I barely made it past the first 20 seconds of the teaser.

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