Gun Language Ubiquitous in U.S. Politics As Debate Flares on Policy


When Vice President Biden promised ideas for responding to the Newtown, Ct., massacre, he said he was “shooting for Tuesday,” even as he warned that there is “no silver bullet” for stopping gun violence, says the New York Times. When President Obama noted that he was reviewing those ideas, he said on a different topic that he would not negotiate “with a gun at the head.” It is hard to get rid of gun violence when Washington cannot even get rid of gun vocabulary, the Times says. Candidates “target” their opponents, lawmakers “stick to their guns,” advocacy groups “take aim” at hostile legislation and reporters write about a White House “under fire.”

The ubiquitous nature of such language has caused people on both sides of the emotional debate to take back, or at least think twice about the phrases they use, lest they inadvertently cause offense in a moment of heightened sensitivity. “It's almost second nature,” said Andrew Arulanandam, director of public affairs for the National Rifle Association. “They're such mainstream phrases, you almost have to check yourself and double-check yourself.” Says Robert Spitzer, a scholar on gun control at the State University of New York at Cortland: “All of that ties into the frontier tradition, rugged individualism, a single American with a flintlock or a gun of some kind holding off the Indians or fighting off the British.” In a speech referring to NRA executive Wayne LaPierre, Spitzer said, “My opening line was, his speech was a misfire; he missed the target, I liked using the gun metaphor because I think it's doubly appropriate for him.”

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