If we're talking about increasing gun safety through numbers reduction, the most effective words in the English language will be "Ewww," "So 2011," and "Jesus, what a pain in the ass."
Our discussion of which weapons and ammunition to ban (See "Black Rifle Blues") is fraught with inconsistencies and plagued by the reality that sometimes, making something illegal increases its appeal.
But MADD and the anti-tobacco folks understood that the perception of unfashionableness is among the world's most powerful forces, and used it to their advantage. It took a long time, but fewer people drive drunk now, and these days, you can go to a bar in quite a few places without coming home smelling like smoke. In the case of tobacco, this was accomplished by some lawsuits, a few bans, and a lot of encouraging people to see cigarettes as just not as cool as previously thought.
Those of us who would prefer to see fewer people die of bullet wounds have an opportunity here. Because nothing makes people change their minds about stuff, like seeing other people change their minds about stuff.
The weapon used by Adam Lanza to kill the children of Newtown is in many ways no different than any other weapon used by any other person for quite a variety of purposes. And even if it were, bad gun does not necessarily equal bad gun owner. But perception and marketing don't work that way. If, between now and Christmas, we can make thousands of people decide not to put a BabyThresher under the tree for their adolescent son, that cuts the total number of guns in the country by a little bit. Moreover, it throws a wrench into the unquestioned meme that gun ownership is an independently good thing all by itself.
My conservative friend at lunch today tells me he will never own a gun because he understands that the probabilities of it killing him or his kid are greater than saving him. ...The number of gun deaths in America are not an acceptable trade-off for so many people's badly mistaken belief that they are net-protected by guns, instead of net-endangered.
Some people are moved by logic, others are moved by seeing people like themselves do things. Gun-owners, like most of us, like to believe they belong to the first group, but actually they fall into both groups. At the end of the day, most of the bans and regulations that end up being put in place will have little effect by comparison with the force of people changing their minds.