THE BLOG
12/28/2015 02:46 pm ET Updated Dec 28, 2016

Trying to Reach New Demographics, the NRA Is Outmatched

You may recall that before he was appointed Attorney General, Eric Holder gave an interview in which he said that the way to deal with gun violence was to tell kids that guns "weren't cool." That statement unleashed a storm of acrimony from the NRA and its various noisemaking minions, all of whom were committed to a strategy that promoted guns to millennials and other non-traditional gun-owning demographics on the basis that they were, in fact, cool.

Probably the most outrageous attempt to sell this 'guns-are-cool' nonsense has been the video antics of an African-American lawyer who calls himself Colion Noir, who prances around the NRA video channel coming up with all kinds of hip and cool reasons why we should all own and carry guns. The folks who write his scripts have come up with some kind of concocted blather about using guns for self-defense, but what's really going on here is an effort by the NRA to capture the hearts and minds of younger minority folks, most of whom don't appear to be all that interested in owning guns.

Of course the truth is that Colion Noir and the NRA in general have about as much to do with defining "cool" as the veritable man in the moon. Most NRA members are older, White men who listen to country music and live in Southern states and smaller, Midwestern towns. They represent a demographic that's about as far away from anything hip and cool as could ever be imagined; getting this audience to respond to an inner-city, jive-talking Black dude would be tantamount to bringing back the Miles Davis Quintet or Ahmad Jamal to play the weekly barn dance at Grand Old Opry in Tennessee.

Which is why I sat up and really took notice when a group of NBA players announced they were joining with Mike Bloomberg's Everytown to run ads on messages about gun violence that first appeared during a series of marquee games that will air on Christmas Day. The ads feature NBA players like the Warriors' Stephen Curry and the Clippers' Chris Paul, along with testimonies from survivors of shootings and relatives of folks killed by guns.

I knew something was up when I noticed Spike Lee becoming very visible on the gun violence issue, particularly when he and Al Sharpton announced a gun violence initiative following the premiere of Spike's new movie, Chi-Raq, which is all about gun violence on Chicago's South Side. At that press conference, Spike and the Reverend Al pledged to hold a series of summit meeting in various cities, but you can't begin to compare the impact of such meetings to the power and force of the NBA ads that are running on national tv.

These ads represent a level of interest and concern that could be (pardon my pun) a real game-changer when it comes to the national discussion about guns. Because the people featured on these ads aren't paid to get up and lament the loss of our 'freedoms,' they don't represent pitchmen for the manufacturers who want to sell guns, and they certainly aren't some amateur-hour video huckster who wants you to think he's a real, hip dude because his skin color happens to be something other than white.

I never thought that gun violence was about race, or poverty, or inner-city life or anything of that sort. I always thought that gun violence was about one thing and one thing only: guns. And the remarkable thing about this television campaign is that every person in these ads talks about guns and what guns have done to their lives and to the lives of people they love and used to love.

I was in a high-end burger bar Christmas afternoon when one of these ads played on the widescreen that was tuned to the NBA. This restaurant tends to be a noisy place, but it quieted down when Carmelo Anthony said what he had to say. Way down.