AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File
Anti-gunners aren’t exactly fans of the Constitution.
I know, I know. We all already know that. It’s clear in the political positions they hold outside of the issue of guns. However, they’re also willing to use their anti-gun sensibilities to attack other parts of the Constitution.
In particular, they’re not fans of the First Amendment either.
But it’s military imagery in advertising — a surefire selling point when it comes to high-power weaponry — that has cropped up as a new trouble spot for the weapons industry.
The Connecticut Supreme Court cracked open the door earlier this month in a ruling that allows victims of the 2012 mass shooting at a Newton, Connecticut, elementary school to sue the maker of the rifle used in its attack over its advertising.
Among the suit’s claims is that Bushmaster and other gun maker defendants “promote their AR-15s by advertising that the most elite branches of the military — including Special Forces, SEALs, Green Berets and Army Rangers — have used them.”
The problem, the plaintiff’s lawyers say, is that young men can be obsessed with the military or succumb to image of masculinity that the ads promise if they buy the semi-auto rifles.
“Consider Your Man Card Reissued,” read one of Bushmaster ads for its AR-15-style gun, the one used in the Sandy Hook shooting. The ad speaks to a “macho hypermasculinity,” said one of the attorneys, Katie Mesner-Hage.
Another Bushmaster ad reads “Force of Opposition, Bow Down: You are Single- Handedly Outnumbered.”
“The advertising isn’t misleading. It’s actually extremely accurate,” she said. “It’s a military weapon. It’s inciteful, reckless advertising.” The AR-15 is meant to serve “one purpose, which is to inflict as many casualties in combat” as possible, Mesner-Hage said.
But gun industry defenders point out that nowhere do ads for guns such as AR-15-style rifles, versions of which are made by several makers besides Bushmaster, ever imply they can be used for purposes other than target practice, hunting or shooting small game like feral pigs.
At the end of the day, they’re trying to prosecute the gun industry over advertising. That’s an attack on Freedom of Speech.
The courts have ruled time and again that companies are collections of individuals who retain their rights to free speech. As such, they’re free to make any comments they so wish without fear of prosecution. This is a central tenant of this great nation.
Now, if you say something that directly results in injury–the much favored “you can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” for example–you’re still liable for that, but no one is accusing anyone of doing any such thing. They’re lashing out because the gun companies are marketing to men. They’re marketing to the demographic historically shown to actually be their market.
And they want to punish them for it.
There’s absolutely no evidence that the Sandy Hook killer was influenced by this advertising. Even if he was, this advertising doesn’t advocate shooting small children. It doesn’t suggest such a thing, for crying out loud.
Further, they’ve successfully stigmatized guns to such a degree that you typically only find gun advertisements in a handful of places, namely firearm and outdoor magazines and websites. You don’t just stumble upon a gun ad in your regular day-to-day life outside of the gun and outdoor communities. That makes the argument that a killer was influenced to murder by advertising even more ridiculous.
It’s really not about guns. It’s about control. It’s clear that it’s not just about what we can and can’t own, but even about how these companies should be allowed to market their products.
Frankly, everyone should be on board with killing an argument like this.