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This is how the NRA ‘politically weaponized’ its membership


Once again, in response to a mass shooting — this one the worst in modern U.S. history — many Americans are calling for stronger gun regulation. And once again, despite some Republicans’ signals that they’ll consider limits on “bump stock” devices such as the ones that helped the Las Vegas shooter kill 58 people and injure hundreds of others, few expect much meaningful legislation from Congress and the president — an outcome caused by the power of the National Rifle Association.

Why is this important?

This piece highlights an important aspect of the weaponized narrative- the ability to link a less salient issue to a much more salient issue (identity). Whether you agree with the piece or not, the core idea is a dangerous development when used in a long-term narrative. For example, if an action is seen in its own context and nothing more, perhaps it may not be that important. But if the action is presented as a religious or patriotic duty, linking it to a person's sense of identity as a good member of their nation or faith, then the action becomes very important. The article presents this through the lens of gun regulations which might be acceptable absent context, but unacceptable when seen in the context of an attempt to undercut a core part of one's identity. Whether the identity created and assigned many good characteristics- courage, defense of one's loved ones, deep loyalty to traditional values- is that of a gun owner, or a law enforcement officer, or a militia member, or a terrorist isn't the point. Those identities are not the same, and should not be seen as the same. They do have one thing in common, though- we rarely fight to protect a narrow action, but we fight very hard to protect our identities. Any group that wants to persuade their members to fight with great zeal could use these tactics, for good goals or bad. And that understanding of human nature is one of the aspects distinguishing a weaponized narrative from a less-dangerous narrative. JH


Matthew Lacombe

Publication Date

October 11, 2017