A New Video From Brady And The NRA Better Watch Out.

I just watched one of the best YouTube videos on guns that I have ever seen.  It is posted  by the Brady Campaign and you can view it directly on YouTube or pull it down from the new Brady website called crimadvisor.com.  The website, like the video, is a tongue-in-cheek riff on a campaign the Brady folks have been running for years which correlates rates of gun violence with state gun laws, the idea being that states with stricter gun controls experience less gun violence.  Brady’s new effort to sell this idea is a website that spoofs TripAdvisor and a remarkably original video that sets a new standard for the gun debate on both sides.

The bizarre notion that we protect ourselves with laws is a direct challenge to the NRA mantra which says that the best way to protect ourselves is with guns.  If it were up to the NRA, we’d go back and undo the GCA68, get rid of background checks entirely and let all those ‘law-abiding’ folks out there walk around with their unlicensed guns and protect the rest of us from the criminals and the thugs.  The NRA promotes this armed citizen nonsense through its video channel that features a group of very serious-minded  folks didactically delivering  one boring commentary after another on the hows and whys of carrying guns.

brady                I have never been comfortable at the extent to which the pro-gun community uses video to promote its agenda if only because so much of the content used to create their digital messaging simply isn’t true.  For example, last year one of the NRA commentators, Billy Johnson, criticized the General Social Survey which showed that gun ownership had declined from 50% of all households to just 34% over the previous  twenty years, citing a Gallup Poll which stated that more than 40% of all American households actually contained guns.  The only problem is that what Johnson didn’t say was that while Gallup had a higher number for gun-owning households, its survey had also shown a decline in gun ownership over the same period of time.  By omitting this critical information, Johnson was able to pretend that the GSS finding about declining gun ownership wasn’t true.  What was really true was the way in which Johnson distorted the evidence to support his own point of view.

But the whole point of video is that it’s not the facts per se that gets your message across to the audience, but the personality, stagecraft and overall artistry of what viewers are watching which drives the message home.  And here is where, when it comes to the gun world, the new Brady video has absolutely no peer.  Close my eyes for a second and I thought I was listening to Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis in Natural Born Killers, the 1994 Oliver Stone – Quentin Tarantino movie where two psychopaths go roaming around the Southwest attacking everyone and everything in sight with their guns.

But while the on-screen antics of the Brady gun-toting wannabes create an element of satire and cleverness that’s just plain fun, it’s not that difficult to slip behind the sarcastic message of this production and perceive the basic argument of the Brady campaign that localities with weak gun regulations make us less, not more safe from crimes with guns.  If you need some hard data to convince you further about where Brady stands, the video moves easily and seamlessly to the website where you can examine the gun-law environment in all 50 states.

I hope that Brady’s video goes viral and that this will be the first of a series of productions in which our two as-yet unnamed characters hold forth on a variety of relevant issues related to guns.  The real challenge in social media is not reaching the folks who are already committed to what you believe; it’s reaching the folks who can become committed because they like the way you say it, and this video says it better than it’s ever been said.

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Gun Trafficking in America - cover


Everytown Updates Its Report On School Shootings And It’s A Must Read.

Want to see one of the best and most penetrating videos on gun violence?  Take a look at the new Everytown video that was mounted to coincide with the two-year anniversary of Sandy Hook. I haven’t seen any depiction of the stark reality of gun violence that beats this effort.  The video is accompanied by a new report analyzing the nearly 100 school shootings that have occurred since Newtown, and is an updated version of the report on school shootings originally published earlier this year.  Since this report, like the previous version, will no doubt come in for the usual slash-and-burn hysterics of the pro-gun crowd, I thought I would get my licks in first. So here goes.

The report is built on public (i.e., media) reports of school shootings defined as a gun being discharged within a school building or the campus around the facility.  This would include shootings that take place in school playgrounds, school parking lots and other areas that are considered school property but are not enclosed within the school building(s) proper.  Because it is based on media reports by definition it is incomplete and therefore has to be considered as representing a smaller number than the actual shootings that take place on school property.

everytown logo                The report breaks down shootings between K-12 institutions and colleges/universities, noting that the number of shootings that occurred in the two environments was roughly the same, with 49 shootings in K-12 and 46 in colleges and universities.  But while there were 18 shootings resulting in at least one injury on a college campus, as opposed to only 14 shootings that caused injuries suffered in K-12 institutions, the lower grades were much more deadly with 15 K-12 schools being the scene of gun homicides, whereas gun deaths occurred at only 8 college locations.

When Everytown’s previous report was issued in June, the pro-gun apologists immediately found all sorts of “inconsistencies” and “exaggerations” about the degree of danger posed by guns being used in and around educational institutions.  The most bizarre statement came from a right-wing blogger named Charles Johnson who determined that the numbers were overstated because a “gang” shooting that took place on school property, like a playground, was not actually a school shooting per se, but was just a random act of violence that happened to take place on school property. But the fact is that most acts of violence are random; they take place between individuals who knew each other before the violence occurred and break out because one party or the other decides to escalate a dispute from a verbal to a physical altercation.

It really doesn’t change things because someone decides to bring a gun onto school property who doesn’t happen to attend that school.  After all, Adam Lanza wasn’t a student at Sandy Hook Elementary when he opened fire on December 14, 2012.  But what differentiated him from many school shooters was his age; i.e., the most difficult aspect of the Everytown report is the age breakdown of the shooters in the K-12 schools.  While 60% were 17 years old or above, 40% were 16 years old or younger, with 3 shooters being 12 and one unbelievably age five.  How in God’s name does a five-year-old tote a gun to school and then shoot it?  For that matter, what can you say about twelve year old kids with live guns?

Earlier this year one of the so-called NRA commentators, Billy Johnson, posted a video in which he argued that teaching gun competency in school was as important as learning how to read and do math.  It’s easy to dismiss such dopey rhetoric as pandering to the fringe of the pro-gun crowd. If the best the pro-gun community can come up with is to quibble over whether or not this shootings took place during the school day or that shooting involved students from a particular school, then they are making it clear that a serious and sober discussion about school violence is beyond their abilities or concern.


Where Should Americans Learn To Shoot? In School Of Course.

Last week the National Education Association posted a video by Billy Johnson, who does “news commentary” for the NRA.  Despite the disclaimer that the video does not represent the “opinions of other organizations,” the content is the usual NRA-admixture of half-truths, sophomoric clichés and outright lies.  THE NEA gave it front-page coverage because it promotes the idea of universal gun education as part of the normal school curriculum, kind of like driver’s ed and just as necessary as reading, writing and math.

What’s the justification for this nonsense?  According to Johnson, we should be teaching shooting in schools because Americans “need” guns and guns are “good.”  This polite rant reflects an emerging NRA strategy is to reach beyond the organization’s core membership with a broad-based message to drive home the idea of guns as just another, regular consumer product that everyone should own.  After all, once we get past purchasing the absolute necessities each week, don’t our decisions about what else to buy usually reflect only the fact that it’s something we really want?  What’s it going to be this week?  New shoes? New clothes? A new gun?  Let’s go shopping.

             Billy Johnson

Billy Johnson

The NRA messaging is an effort to “normalize” gun ownership, but also reflects their awareness of how Americans increasingly educate themselves, communicate with each other, and thus make decisions about what to buy, own, and otherwise pony up the consumer bucks.  Not only is the whole society moving towards digital and particularly video channels, but the Millennials, the only generation who have yet to decide whether or not they want to own guns, are twice as likely to use Facebook and other social media outlets to make contact and communicate with others.

A bit of recognition of this problem was recently voiced on Huffington Post by Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign, who talked about the importance of messaging gun safety by “taking the emotion out of a debate that has gotten all tangled up in the second amendment.”  He cites as a successful effort the joint Brady-American Academy of Pediatrics ASK program that encourages parents to ask if there are unsafe guns in homes where their children visit.  I’m not taking anything away from either organization, but this approach completely misunderstands the NRA whose cavalcade of video commentators not only talk the talk directly to potential gun owners, but also – and here’s the key element – talk specifically about guns.

                Gun control advocates feel comfortable talking about things like safety, background checks, mental health, concealed-carry and the like.  But to the average gun owner or the wannabe gun owner, that’s just so much noise.  The real question the gun control crowd should be asking is simply this: Do you really want to walk around with something which, in an instant, can end a life or change your life in an unalterably terrible way?  But somehow the advocates for more gun control always seem to gloss over the only thing that really makes a difference, and that one thing is the gun.  Meanwhile, the NRA forges ahead on the video playing-field selling the idea that guns are natural and good.  On this issue, the most important issue, the other side doesn’t even field a second-string team.

We have grown accustomed to believing that the size of the gun-owning population is decreasing as the public surveys continue to show a decline in the percentage of households which claim to have guns.  There is also plenty of internet chatter about how the NRA membership claims are vastly over-stated.  Even if this is all true, and I’m not sure it is, the NRA and the gun lobby in general aren’t rolling over and playing dead.  They are out there with their videos, their Facebook pages, their Tweets and the other channels that comprise a new media environment which they completely own. Do you think the other side can catch up?

“Where Adventure, Style And Culture Collide” – Welcome To The New NRA.

noirNow that the NRA has figured out that the next generation of consumers may not be as interested in buying guns as previous generations, they have started their own television and  internet network  known as “NRA Freestyle, ” which will be a place where “adventure, style, culture and firearms collide.”  It will be interesting to see whether an organization whose rank-and-file membership is overwhelmingly White, male, rural, blue-collar and over 50 can re-orient itself to capture the hearts and minds of a population that is increasingly non-White, college educated, urban-suburban and pro-gay lifestyle. And most of all, it’s a population, according to Pew and other surveys, that has little, if any loyalty or even interest in the ideology of either political party.

So it was with these thoughts in mind that I tuned into the premiere of Noir, the first show to be aired on the Freestyle network. The show stars Colion Noir, an African-American from Texas who has been part of the NRA commentator’s stable for the past year and is considered the “proof” that one can be hip, cool, minority and everything else non-mainstream and still like guns.  Actually, the videos he does for the NRA are contrived, aimless and basically do nothing except repeat the usual anti-Obama Administration bromides wrapped in a BET-accented script.

In the new show Colion is joined by a woman commentator, Amy Robbins, the two of them sitting in a bare-bones studio set whose main decoration is a large, white logo for the NRA.  The show, running slightly longer than 15 minutes, is a series of dialogues between Noir and Robbins, she both by her presence and her comments reminding everyone of the importance of the female gun market even though, in fact, women continue to have little interest in guns.

But despite the hip and cool verbal pitter-patter between a Black guy and a White girl, let’s not forget what the show’s really all about.  It takes Noir and Robbins about 5 minutes to deliver a snarky and totally-irrelevant rant against Hillary Clinton, with a reminder that a Clinton presidency would mark a new chapter in the attack on citizen-owned guns. And then at about the ten-minute mark, after our two hosts are joined by Billy Johnson who regularly delivers conservative tirades against  gun control on NRA webcasts, the show becomes just another vehicle for attacking Mike Bloomberg and his attempts to use “government” to tell us all “how to run our own lives.”

Up until the anti-Bloomberg rant, I thought the show was making some headway into changing the image of the NRA from a hard-core, politicized advocacy organization into something that a younger, less politically-committed generation might find easier to accept.  But if the producers of Noir really believe they have figured out a way to blend the NRA message into the Mellennial lifestyle, then all I can say is ‘good luck.’   I don’t know how much the shows’s sponsors, Daniel Defense and Mossberg, anted up to get their logos splashed onto the screen, but I can’t imagine that this show will gain them much of a following among the consumer population that is just coming of age.

One last point: the show also contained a segment called ‘Gun Pads’ in which guns, mostly assault-style rifles, are stacked like furnishings on pianos, tables, and other locations within a swankily-furnished home.  Colion refers to this as a new kind of ‘decor’ that gun owners should present to people who visit their homes, but what was interesting about the display was that not a single one of the firearms had either a lock or any other kind of safety device.  You would think that after after a major rant against Bloomberg and other gun-control advocates for always “telling gun owners how to behave,” that this NRA show would have had the good sense to at least promote gun safety to an audience that might not feel that comfortable around guns. You would think….