While local news media in Connecticut are calling it a “new approach”, Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s bid to go after gun companies based on their advertising and marketing is actually just a continuation of a trend that’s been going on for several years. With the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act prohibiting lawsuits that seek to hold firearms manufacturers responsible for the actions of criminals, anti-gun activists and their political allies have had to get creative with their attempts to sue the industry into oblivion, and they’ve seen some success by going after their marketing practices; most notably when the insurers of Remington ended up settling a lawsuit filed by several survivors and victims families of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
Now Blumenthal is hoping to get the heavy hand of government involved in addition to the courts, and he and fellow senator Chris Murphy have introduced the Responsible Firearms Marketing Act; a bill that would require the Federal Trade Commission to “study the dangers posed by unfair and deceptive marketing and advertising practices conducted by the gun industry“.
“The gun industry uses irresponsible marketing tactics – even targeting kids with ads for lethal weapons – to sell as many firearms as possible because their sole focus is maximizing profits. This legislation takes a step toward holding firearm manufacturers and sellers accountable for their dangerous advertising practices,” said Murphy.
Despite Blumenthal and Murphy’s insistence that the firearms industry is engaged in these tactics, their press release was strangely absent of any actual examples of the type of deceptive or irresponsible ads they claim are omnipresent among gun makers. Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, says that’s because the senator’s claims are nonsense.
Adweek was the latest to weigh in. The advertising trade publication, which regularly highlights efforts by various gun control groups to demonize lawful gun ownership, posted a feature claiming that today’s gun ads are turning America’s children into “extremists.”
The article focuses on an effort by lawmakers to pressure the FTC to abandon their neutrality and deny gun manufacturers the ability to advertise. They say the ads of yesteryear of plaid-clad hunters unwrapping a rifle under the tree are acceptable, but today’s advertising that draws on patriotism and self-reliance is a bridge too far. They want the FTC to burn gun manufacturers at the metaphorical stake and cut out their tongues.
That is a pretty big leap to suggest that Americans – even youth – exposed to firearm ads will poison their minds. Guns have been advertised for decades, even guns offered in youth models. Mechanix Illustrated ran an ad in 1954 for a Remington .22-caliber rifle, featuring a youth holding a rifle he received as a Christmas present. Sears Roebuck listed firearms in their catalog in 1897, featuring a shotgun for $7.95 and would even deliver a revolver to a mailing address.
Clearly, government regulations restricted that years ago. Even toy guns, like Mattel’s #2 M-16 were featured in 1967 with “braap, brra-a-a-a-ap, brap, brap,” sounds were advertised. None of that turned America’s youth into murderers. In fact, recreational shooting, including the scholastic shooting sports, ranks among the safest sporting activities. Golf, walking and tennis report more injuries than hunting and trap and skeet shooting reports just 0.1 percent of injuries.
If today’s youth are getting any irresponsible or misleading messages about gun ownership, it’s not coming from traditional advertising on the part of the firearms industry, but the glut of social media posts that promote illegal and irresponsible use of a firearm generated by morons who post their idiocy for all to see (and sadly, for some to emulate).
The good news is that Blumenthal and Murphy’s bid to silence the firearms industry isn’t going to go far on Capitol Hill. Senate Democrats may pass this legislation, but a companion bill introduced in the House will probably never get a committee hearing, much less a vote on the House floor. But consider this another warning shot on the part of the gun prohibitionists as we head in to the 2024 election cycle. They’re telling us in clear terms what’s in store if they seize power in next year’s elections, and it won’t stop with restricting the firearms industry’s advertising and marketing. It’s not the ads that they’re really objecting to, but the guns themselves… and the tens of millions of Americans who own them.