Tag Archives: gun control

Un-Selling The Gun: Anti-Firearms Advertising

An anti-gun advertisement Arkadi Gerney helped to create featuring Omar Samaha, whose sister Reema was killed by Seung-Hui Cho in the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings.

Last week on The New Yorker‘s website, gun policy activist Arkadi Gerney wrote about a deeply personal experience with firearms that lead him to his pro-gun-control career. As someone currently researching in the stories told by firearms advertising, I am also interested to learn about the techniques Gerney used to try and sway people in the opposite direction, to “un-sell” guns in the interest of gun control. Gerney talks about campaigns that worked and didn’t work, saying:

All these efforts depended on survivors and family members telling their stories. Internal public-opinion research we conducted showed that the scale of gun violence made the numbers hard to comprehend. It was important, we determined, to put human faces on the problem. People listen when victims talk to them.

It’s a way of making the abstract concrete. Humans are famously terrible at understanding the full meaning of numbers or complex statistical analysis. In many ways, the American gun control debate is a debate about who controls the gun narrative— the meanings and associations we embed into these objects. As Gerney writes:

The gun issue is emotionally charged—and ripe for emotional appeals. It’s easy to make data-driven arguments for stronger gun laws built on statistical evidence; but that levelheaded approach has never been enough.

Second Amendment advocates know this, too; they’ve developed a case with its own emotional weight, on which the core issue is not guns but freedom. It’s about liberty fought and died for two hundred and thirty years ago, and paid for with blood in fields in foreign lands ever since. Advocates for stronger gun laws would be unwise to diminish the deeply felt sense of history, culture, and liberty that for so many years has motivated millions to send thirty dollars a year to the N.R.A., call a member of Congress, hold a sign at a rally, or run for office.

Gerney goes on to say that “it’s the stories of the people whose lives are changed that can help to permanently change the debate, and thus make our country safer.”

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Farhad Manjoo on why 3D printed guns won’t produce intended anarchy

via Slate 5/8/13

You’ve probably already heard about Cody Wilson and his functional 3D-printed gun. I was feeling a bit murky on this issue and couldn’t quite pinpoint why until reading Farhad Manjoo’s piece in Slate. Manjoo argues that even if the wikiweapon were printable on a personal 3D printer (Wilson’s gun must still be made on a professional one), printed weapons would still be a minor fraction of the firearms industry. Manjoo writes:

In 2012 alone, gun makers created 6 million new guns, with sales estimated at close to $12 billion. With so many cheap guns available, 3-D guns don’t warrant much attention. Sure, 3-D printers will get cheaper and better, but they aren’t anywhere near as cheap nor as widely available as manufactured guns, and they won’t be for many years. Until then, there are plenty of non-printable firearms to worry about.

Comparing US gun makers to the pre-napster record labels of yore, Manjoo then points out that limiting the sale and manufacture of 3D printed weapons is actually in the interest of one of the most powerful political lobbies in the country. Hollywood is figuring out ways to curb our illegal downloading of movies. It isn’t unthinkable that gun makers would want to undermine the creation of 3D printed weapons before they could cause a similar disruption.

And that gets to the 3-D gun movement’s fundamental error—their belief that information can’t be controlled, and that its mere existence will somehow force gun control advocates to rethink their approach. That simply isn’t true. Though the Internet has made all kinds of information more widely accessible, governments have proven adept at curbing all kinds of data they want to keep under wraps.

But here was the paragraph that really resonated with me:

Finally, I wonder why Cody Wilson needs a 3-D gun to prove that we live in a world where information is tantamount to weaponry. We all know that we already live in such a world. Last week, before you could download plans for a workable 3-D–printed gun, you could find plans for all kinds of other weapons online—bombs, poisons, bioweapons, and many other horrors. We’ve just seem a terrible demonstration of this fact: Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev are alleged to have created the pressure-cooker bombs they used to attack the Boston Marathon by using off-the-shelf parts and plans published by Inspire, an al-Qaida–affiliated online magazine.

I don’t think I know anyone who’s taken advantage of available bomb-making resources to make a bomb. I could see a few hundred enthusiasts printing off Wilson’s gun as a novelty or toy but I think that the majority of Americans (arguably) would rather not make/own this object and they would rather not live in a country where anyone might be armed at any moment. That’s the question we’re trying to figure out, though, right? What is the social contract trade-off for living in this society? It might be “live knowing that anyone could be carrying a loaded gun” or it could be “live without carrying a loaded gun” — depending on how the gun control conversation evolves.

Take a look at Manjoo’s full article here.

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