In Gun Debate, Even Language Can Be Loaded

The Times documents how gun metaphors pervade our everyday language:

When the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence wanted to promote more restrictions on firearms after the Connecticut school shootings in December, it turned to a firm to help publicize its position. The firm’s name? Point Blank Public Affairs.

When Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. promised ideas for responding to the massacre, he said he was “shooting for Tuesday”—even as he warned that there is “no silver bullet” for stopping gun violence. 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.”

No wonder it is hard to get rid of gun violence when Washington cannot even get rid of gun vocabulary. The vernacular of guns suffuses the political and media conversation in ways that politicians and journalists are often not even conscious of, underscoring the historical power of guns in the American experience. 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.”

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