An argument broke out in the GVP community concerning an advertisement put out by the Brady organization, which shows images of mass shooters, Adam Lanza and James Holmes, along with pictures of shooting victims and permits viewers to download a Google app that erases the names and images of mass shooters from online media “out of respect for the victims.” The ad sparked an outcry leading to the posting of an online petition that asked Brady to withdraw their ad campaign. As of this morning, the petition collected 120 names.
Evidently the Brady message sparked anger on the part of people who are invested in trying to absorb the emotions involved in losing a loved one in a mass shooting. Reuters quoted a Los Angeles-based entertainment writer who lost a cousin in the Aurora movie shooting; another online media outlet got a similar reaction from Tom Teves who lost his son at Aurora and then started an organization, No Notoriety, whose media consultant just happens to be the Los Angeles PR lady quoted by Reuters above.
Now don’t get me wrong. Nobody should try and capitalize by exploiting the grief of others, and in the age of instant journalism fostered by the internet, disclosure rules that used to govern old-style journalism should still apply. But without in any way calling into question the motives or views of people who suffer daily from wanton acts of gun violence, there are two issues here that need to be addressed.
First is the general issue of how guns and gun violence are depicted by those individuals and organizations who seek to find solutions to the carnage which continues to claim 30,000+ lives every year. Personally, I have always found it unsettling that whenever the media talks about gun violence, the actual images which prove just how fearsome guns can be are sanitized to a degree that basically renders the argument moot. Take a look, for example, at the illustration which accompanied the Reuters story quoted above. And this pic is typical of what accompanies virtually all GVP media stories on gun violence; if you don’t believe me, take a look at this story from NPR. Let’s not forget that a majority of Americans now believe that someone walking around with a gun is safer than not having a gun. I don’t think it would be such a terrible thing to show these folks the damage that a gun can really do.
Getting back to Brady, I also want to raise a specific issue regarding the petition that is collecting signatures condemning their ad. The petition is hosted by an outfit, change.org, whose name sounds very much like the type of website that hosts stories and promotes activities for people and organizations with a progressive point of view. And in fact the website claims to “reach the world’s largest socially engaged audience.” Now what could be more progressive and more dedicated to good things than that?
But a funny thing happens when you take the time to actually examine some of the petitions that are hosted on this site, in particular, petitions about guns. You’ll find all kinds of petitions asking Obama to do this and that for gun safety, along with petitions for keeping guns off various college campuses, extending background checks to private sales, blah, blah and blah. You’ll also find a petition promoting open carry in Florida, which has gained more than 20,000 signatures, and another petition (ready for this one?) that has garnered more than 5,000 signatures, telling Congress to abolish the NFA. Which happens to be the law regulating the private ownership of machine guns! Imagine what would have happened if Adam Lanza could have walked into Sandy Hook Elementary with a full-auto gun.
I’m not saying that people who spoke out against the Brady ad should be criticized for mounting a petition on a website that hosts petitions asking to make it easier for Americans to get killed with guns. But perhaps the GVP community should be a little more solicitous of the company they keep.