The Argument that Wins the 'Assault Weapon' Debate

General Carl von Clausewitz defined the center of gravity as the objective whose achievement results in the enemy's total defeat. We must therefore identify this single objective or, in a political controversy, a single issue, and concentrate our resources accordingly. In the case of the "assault weapon" debate, this is the basic and natural human right of self-defense. If we present the argument correctly, the other side has absolutely no defense whatsoever.

The Target Audience: Swing Voters and the Opposing Rank and File

Colonel Paul Linebarger's Psychological Warfare states clearly that any communication whose purpose is to influence attitudes, beliefs, and actions is propaganda by definition. Encouragements to get flu shots or adopt shelter pets are examples of honest and beneficial propaganda. The same goes for injunctions against smoking, driving while drunk, or texting while driving. Nazi cartoons of Jews with exaggerated Semitic features, the White Aryan Resistance's cartoons of Blacks with exaggerated Negro features, and cartoonist Steve Benson's portrayals of gun owners with nuts for heads are dishonest and malevolent propaganda. The same goes for Barack Obama's use of children as human shields in his war against the Second Amendment.

(Benson, an Arizona Cardinals fan, also drew a cartoon of a stereotyped Pittsburgh Steelers fan, complete with pierogies and kielbasa for brain cells -- an apparent ethnic slur against Poles. Benson's derogatory stereotypes of gun owners, meanwhile, go against Linebarger's warning against demonizing the other side's rank and file. I recall a Benson cartoon of a drunk "NRA member" who was letting his child play with a loaded gun. Here is another that is almost libelous, because it accuses the NRA of being mass murderer Jared Lee Loughner's accomplice. If we show Benson's hate propaganda to gun owners who are "only" interested in hunting, skeet shooting, and so on, we can probably double the NRA's membership in a few years.)

Linebarger then defines the "Propaganda Man" as the composite person or target audience we want to persuade. This is not the enemy leader, whose dishonesty and lack of integrity is well known, and who will never submit to facts or rational arguments. These leaders include politicians like Dianne Feinstein (CA), Jerrold Nadler (NY), Charles Schumer (NY), Andrew Cuomo (NY), Bobby Rush (IL), and anybody else who will be reelected no matter what he or she does. Bobby Rush, for example, is a convicted criminal who belonged to the Black Panthers when it advocated the murder of police officers. His constituents nonetheless selected him over Barack Obama in a 2000 Congressional primary, and they are obviously not going to remove him for attacking the Second Amendment.

The destruction of the Million Mom March in 2000 proved, however, that it is possible to convince the other side's followers to walk away in disgust. Our target audience therefore consists of (1) people whom the enemy has deluded into swallowing their gun control snake oil and (2) constituents of Members of Congress whose tenure depends on the good will of swing voters. Examples of the latter include suburban and rural Democrats.

Paul Kanjorski (D-PA), who received an A rating from the National Rifle Association, served 13 terms in a region with a strong firearm tradition. He would probably still be in office if he had not supported ObamaCare. His successor Matt Cartwright has, however, expressed support for an "assault weapon" ban. We must therefore remind him that Northeast PA is not Philadelphia, Chicago, New York City, or Los Angeles: the main sources of opposition to the basic human right of self-defense. The voters in his district, and the surrounding ones, exemplify the target audience we must persuade. This persuasion can be very simple, honest, and straightforward.

The Right and Means of Self-Defense

It is not effective to argue that the Second Amendment allows ownership of any weapon whatsoever, even though this might have been the intention of the Founding Fathers. Our opponents argue that the Founding Fathers were talking about single-shot muskets, and we counter correctly that muskets were the colonial counterpart of the M-16; every army on earth used them. (The First Amendment similarly envisioned soap boxes in public parks, as opposed to the Internet.) These arguments persuade nobody who has not already chosen a side, and they are therefore a waste of time. "Because the Constitution says so" or "It's my right" will not convince anybody whom the enemy is deluging with images of dead children, while the Glorious Leader uses children as human shields to support his so-called reasoning. Our argument must instead be as compelling as the inarguable statement that two and two make four, and therefore impossible for any honest and rational person to contradict.

The first step is to challenge the other side with a very simple question: "Do you believe that all human beings have a natural and inherent right to defend themselves from violent attack?" Even people like Barack Obama, Andrew Cuomo, and Dianne Feinstein will not dare to answer in the negative. They will, however, demur that nobody needs an "assault weapon" to exercise this right. Cuomo said quite correctly that nobody needs ten bullets to kill a deer, but he knows full well that the Second Amendment is not about shooting deer. The question, and the other side must not be allowed to evade it or equivocate, is "How many bullets might a person reasonably need to stop one or more violent specimens of the most dangerous animal on earth?"

Police departments apparently believe the answer to be 13 to 17 rounds of 9 millimeter, as shown by their use of Glocks with these magazine capacities. A .45 caliber sidearm has far more stopping power, so seven rounds (the maximum now allowed by New York) may be adequate to end a life or death confrontation that somebody else starts. Most women, however, along with small men, find the 9 millimeter's lesser recoil far easier to handle. New York's Legislature and governor therefore seem to think that the right of effective self-defense should be reserved for healthy and fit men, as opposed to women and senior citizens.

When it comes to rifles, police departments believe the answer to be no less than 30 rounds of .223, as shown by their deployment of AR-15s. The only difference between a police officer and a private citizen is that the former has the authority and duty to intervene in situations that the ordinary citizen should, or even must, avoid. If either needs a firearm for any non-sporting purpose, though, he or she needs it for exactly the same reason. The definition of a weapon that is "reasonable" for legitimate self-defense is therefore, "Any weapon that is routinely available to law enforcement agencies."

I tried this on a talk show host who supports the proposed "assault weapon" ban, and he had no viable answer. Neither will anybody else against whom we deploy it in letters to the editor, talk radio, the Internet, and other media.

William A. Levinson, P.E. is the author of several books on business management including content on organizational psychology, as well as manufacturing productivity and quality.