The Problem with “Know your Gun’s History”

This commercial by States United to Prevent Gun Violence was designed from the first frame to be a punch in the gut. From the choice of music to the grey Manhattan weather, you know that you’re in for a lesson. Don’t buy guns. If you do, everything near and dear to you will turn to ash…

I’m not their target audience. After all, the shop’s door of the faux gun shop clearly said, “First time gun owners.” Not, “Folks who grew up with guns in their homes and managed to survive to see adulthood.” or even, “Responsible gun owners.” No. They wanted first time gun owners, because they are the only ones who could fall for their basic message.

Only a first time gun owner, for example, would believe that a single action revolver (cowboy gun, for you first time gun owners) was the store’s most popular handgun. It might not seem like a big deal, but imagine going to your Chevy dealership and having the salesman attempt to sell you a new, 1974 Vega. No matter how incredible the car might be, it’s still obsolete.

States United's Guns with History commercial. That nickel plated single action revolver is their fake best seller.
States United’s Guns with History commercial. That nickel plated single action revolver is their fake best seller.

The commercial went like this. Customer comes. The clerk places a gun in his or her hands and says some made up gun-ish jargon followed by the story. That story.

Each gun in their “shop” had  one. A  tag relating it directly to an accidental shooting or homicide. Adam Lanza… The baby who shot his mother with a gun that he found in her purse… a child who killed his little sister with the aforementioned nickel-plated, 22 caliber single action revolver. The hidden cameras linger on the perspective gun buyer’s faces. Shock. Disgust and regret.

Imagine the car dealership again. Now picture being handed a brochure full of wreckage. “This is when the new Ford Escape was used to run a red light and kill a small child.”

Or if pictures of morbidly obese corpses were affixed to every Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Burger King menu. “You want an apple pie? You mean like the apple pie that contributed to David Johnson’s triple bypass? He died anyway. Left three children behind. They will never get over it. Would you like some fries with that?”

Cameras followed the would-be customers onto the sidewalk. Although I’m pretty sure that there were a fair amount of New Yawkers who told the clerk to “Get out of my face with that bullshit…”, there were more than enough that were shaken up. It made for a gut punch of a commercial.

“It made me think twice, and I’m not going to buy one,” said one woman.

I’m okay with that. You should think twice before you go to the gun shop. Guns are a heavy responsibility. They are unforgiving. If training with and safely securing your firearm aren’t priorities, they need to be. And if finding out that your gun might have been involved with a shooting is enough to dissuade you from buying, don’t. Having a firearm in your house that you’re afraid to use or practice with is a recipe for disaster.

Now all you have to do is figure out what you are going to do instead of buying a gun. After all, these weren’t people who were buying because they thought guns were cool, or because they wanted to take James Bond selfies. With the exception of one pair of customers that simply liked the second amendment, they just wanted to protect themselves and their homes.

In its haste to make a point about the dangers of firearm ownership, States United didn’t bother to ask them why they felt the need to protect themselves, which is pretty important. Crime is down in NYC, but it isn’t non-existent. Some of them might have been victims of break-ins, home invasion, abuse or harassment.

The Police response time in NYC averages about 9 minutes. That’s a long time to wait if your life is being threatened. If you were attacked, you might live long enough to make a police statement, but that’s up to your attacker.

I wonder if States United will do a followup with their mock gun store customers in a few years. They will probably all be alive and no worse for wear, still waving the anti-gun flag that they were guilted into picking up. But maybe they will stumble upon a different type of tragedy.

They can name each gun after the man or woman who didn’t buy it.