Until recently, I was somewhat dismayed at the degree to which the digital side of the gun debate was so completely owned by the pro-gun crowd. Not that they don't deserve their fair share of the online environment, and not that they haven't worked tirelessly to bring this about. But I'm interested in is a fair and honest fight between the two sides, and it won't happen until both sides show up.
I was never particularly impressed by the content of the NRA video channel; the messaging tends to be didactic, wordy, sometimes outright stupid and basically boring as hell. But video characters like Billy Johnson, Colion Noir, Chris Cheng and Natalie Foster have carved out followings for themselves on the NRA website, along with YouTube, which means that a basic, pro-gun argument is viewed by hundreds, if not thousands of people every day. And while we usually think of arguments for more gun safety as belonging to the folks who try to promote more regulation of guns, the fact is that some of the best videos that show people how to use guns in a safe way are produced by the gun industry itself.
The last several weeks, however, have seen this state of affairs beginning to change. Last week the Brady Campaign released a video on gun laws and gun violence, which they posted on a site that's a spoof on the TripAdvisor website, which set a new standard for gun videos produced by either side. I talked about this video in HuffPost and said that it was not only clever and theatrically well done, but also directly challenged a basic NRA argument that we will all be safer if everyone has a gun. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that the evidence on the risks versus the benefits of an armed citizenry can be used to definitively sway the argument either way. What I am saying is that this video at least presents the argument about gun risk in persuasive and artistic terms.
The gun-sense folks have now released another video which is generating web-based commotion because of its content, artistry and tone, but this time the commotion is coming more from the other side in ways which indicate that the video's argument is really hitting home. I am referring to a video released by States United to Prevent Gun Violence which shows a New York City gun shop that only sells guns which were used in gun violence, including the Bushmaster AR taken off the body of Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook and the pistol that the two-year old son of Veronica Rutledge used to kill his mom.
The guns are fakes, the store doesn't really exist and I'm not sure that the 'customers' who walked in and then exhibited varying degrees of shock and concern after being told the history of those guns were real customers at all. But no matter, the video is powerful, artistic and drives the message, pace the NRA, that owning a gun is a risk.
The video has been attacked by the usual pro-gun suspects like Breitbart and Daily Caller, but the most interesting response to the video from the pro-gun side was a demand made to the New York State Attorney General by the state's NRA-affiliate Pistol and Rifle Association to investigate the video's sponsor for violations of the state gun-control statute which, of course, this same association did everything it could to try and prevent from becoming law. If Eric Schneiderman has nothing better to do than chase after States United because they stuck a bunch of unlocked toy guns on a wall, then Andy should fire him immediately and appoint a new AG. Andy has better things to do.
The reaction to this video by the gun guys in New York tells me that the digital playing field on gun violence is beginning to level out. Now if the gun-sense folks could only find a stellar personality a la Clint Eastwood, to drive their video messages home...
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