Two days ago Molly Ann Wymer uploaded a video to her Facebook page, where she has been posting videos for the past year or so, and the last time I looked, it had received over `16 million views in less than three full days! Now I don’t know if Facebook keeps records on how many views any particular page receives, but I can tell you that this is by far and away the largest audience to ever watch a social media post about guns. What has made this effort so resoundingly successful is the fact that Molly Ann has obviously found a way to talk about guns to the widest possible audience imaginable, and both sides in the gun debate better figure out what she’s doing that none of them are doing, because otherwise she’s going to end up owning the public debate all by herself.
Wymer has a disarming way of talking about guns as if it’s just another, simple problem that can be solved if we would all just get along. She talks about going into a gun shop where the salesman greets her by calling her “ma’am,” which is a traditional Southern-ism that used to mean that women were somehow not quite the equal of men. They were treated differently, they were expected to act differently, there was a whole sub-culture of deference and politesse which, in fact, did nothing more than to put women in a traditional, subservient class. The look on Wymer’s face and the way she rolls her eyes as she describes the gun shop conversation is enough, in and of itself, to tell you that this lady is no subservient gal.
Anyway, she goes on to say that she loves being single but sometimes feels afraid, which is why she wanted to buy what she calls a “protection gun.” Now the use of the word ‘protection’ is the tip-off that something new and different is about to take place in a digital space, because the gun industry has spent a gazillion dollars trying to sell the false idea that guns are the best means of self-defense, but no gun maker has ever produced a product called a ‘protection gun.’ And of course Molly Ann goes on to say that the gun shop guy then rushed to assure her that, “Ma’am (which pissed her off again) all guns are the same.”
And this is the point at which the video takes a brilliant turn. Because after a few additional Ma’ams, Molly says to the storekeep, “I watch the news, and I know there are guns that attack people and guns that protect people and I would like the protection kind of gun.” She then goes on to say that she bought a “pink one” because that was more “feminine” and here’s the kicker: “If we can just figure out how to get all the murder guns and the attack guns and not keep selling them and just sell protection guns, I think that would be great and solve a lot of problems.”
Now I’ve been following the gun debate for more than forty years, and this is the first time I have heard the two sides of that debate referred to simply in terms of what a gun can do. Of course a gun can be used for self-defense, but the same gun can also be used to inflict great harm against someone who isn’t a risk or threat to the gun owner at all. And by verbally juxtaposing the words ‘attack’ and ‘protection’ with the idea that we are talking about different kinds of guns, what Molly Ann has done is reduce the whole argument about guns to what it really is: a dispute about what a gun represents in its most finite form. Because what protection means to the pro-gun community is what attack means to people who want to regulate guns. And Molly Ann Wymer has expressed this better than anyone else.