President Obama promised “meaningful action” to prevent gun violence, but he didn’t explain exactly what that meant. Although a push for some kind of gun control legislation seems likely, there’s also the possibility of an anti-gun “informational campaign” as described in 1995 by then-U.S. Attorney Eric Holder.
Holder, now Obama’s attorney general, proposed using various levers of media and pop culture to attach a social stigma to guns, just as smoking has been stigmatized in recent decades.
“One thing that I think is clear with young people and with adults as well, is that we just have to be repetitive about this,” Holder told the Women’s National Democratic Club while discussing how to curb gun violence in D.C. “It’s not enough to simply have a catchy ad on a Monday and then only do it every Monday. We need to do this every day of the week and just really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way.”
To that end, he called for the “creative community” — “those ad agencies that create these snappy ads and make me buy things that I don’t really need” — to focus on convincing young people that “it’s not acceptable, it’s not hip to carry a gun anymore.” He emphasized that newspapers and television need to devote prime space to these ads.
Holder also called for people who have influence over youngsters, entertainers, athletes, to be involved in this program as well” — an idea that could plausibly be revived in the wake of the murder-suicide recently carried out by the Kansas City Chiefs’ Javon Belcher. “But not only them – community leaders, Jesse Jackson, Mayor Barry, people who have credibility with young people should be on the television, on the radio, as much as we possibly can and telling these youngsters that it’s wrong to carry a gun,” Holder added.
To be sure, Holder came up with this idea 17 years ago to address a problem of local gun violence; there’s no guarantee he’d revive it now. But the Obama administration has hired public relations firms to promote Obamacare and crafted advertisements to drive participation in the food stamp program, so it’s not implausible that the president’s team adopt similar tactics on the gun issue.