Michael Maiello's picture

    A Gun Truth Movement for Gun Truthers

    I admit, as a smoker in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I found those "Truth" anti-smoking ads to be pretty obnoxious and I expected that they would be no more effective than the "Just Say No," anti-drug ads of the 1980s.  But I was actually a little older than "The Truth" was aiming for, and a little too set in my ways. I had to find my own path away from nicotine. The Truth ads, meanwhile, were effective enough that a whole lot of people who were 5-15 years younger than me never had to waste any time or money on tobacco, much less endure the trial of quitting.  Good for The Truth.

    Over at TPM today, I wrote about how cool it would be if society were to turn on guns the way it has turned on cigarettes over the last fifteen years. Coincidentally, it turns out that many of you were having the same discussion over in Danny Cardwell's thread.

    The larger lesson I draw from all of this is that sometimes the culture has to lead the legislation.  With cigarettes, it was a mixed bag.  There were a lot of legislative solutions, especially at state and local levels, restricting the timing, placement and content of tobacco ads and restricting where people could smoke.  That undoubtedly worked in concert with social campaigns against smoking (as well as changing attitudes in Hollywood). Nothing is ever totally cut and dry.

    However, with cigarettes, the federal government never had to take the high risk, big regulatory plunge.  At any time and citing ample evidence, the Food and Drug Administration might have claimed enough jurisdiction over nicotine to outright ban most cigarette sales.  It just never happened and, because of the cultural shift, may never be necessary.

    It's a nice way to solve problems because it takes the victimization of legislation out of the equation.  People get angry when the government tells them they can't do what they want to do, but they don't have the same standing to be upset if the government is imposes nothing even as society casts its judgments. 




    Thanks for sharing, Michael.

    I smoked for about 4 years, one problem was a pack only cost twenty cents at the PX. I heard a Surgeon General's report about cancer while driving my Ford convertible on the Merritt Parkway and threw my last pack of Lucky's out of the car at Whaley Ave. For 10 years I had dreams that I could smoke just one cigarette and not get hooked---that's how pervasive the addiction was.

    Your post and the lip- butt-dish photo suggests some ads:

    At the lake in Texas a handsome guy embraces a sorority girl in a skimpy bikini while a loner type guy is in the background looking weird while carrying---why can't he get a girl like that---oops, scratch that one. .

    A guy is playing poker with his 9 millimeter on the table. He looses successive hands. In anger he waves his gun around, eventually shooting a chandelier which drops on nis head, his gun misfires into his inner thigh: Caption: "Gun slingers never win, except at stupidity."

    A rifle with the clap is trying unsuccessfully to discharge itself in the men's room at the Ritz while rich hedge fund managers look on, laughing and sneering.


    How about this?  

    A pretty girl is sitting on a park bench at a college.  One nice looking guy comes up and talks to her, asking questions about what she is interested in, etc.  He asks her for her phone number and she gives it to him.  He goes off to class.  Then another even handsomer guy sits down and starts asking her similar questions.  He has trouble leaning back on the bench, and turns and shows her his holstered handgun.  He says that he just doesn't feel safe without his Glock.  She looks around at the bucolic scene and pictures him shooting up the place; her face says it all -->  This guy is bad news and scares me.  Her phone rings, she answers, smiles, and walks away.  Mr gun stares cluelessly, and angrily in her direction.

    Or this:

    A shy looking nerdy-type guy is talking to his friends.  They are talking about how to get girls to like them.  Amusing comments ensue as they innocently think of a bunch of stupid things guys do to attract girls (bragging and showing off).  They are all checking their smart phones intermittently.  One of them goes on a website:  whatmakeschicksclick.com (FYI I made that up).  He starts reading out things like:  Ask her what she is studying.  Ask her about her family.  Ask her where she got such good taste in clothes, and then bring yourself into the conversation relating to her answers.  Ask her, ask her, ask her...show interest in HER rather than thinking just about yourself.

    Meanwhile we get a view of the smart phone screen of the one nerdly kid who hasn't been in the conversation and has been withdrawn all along -->  He is looking at various guns.  The pain on his face is obvious, in contrast to the interest and joy on the others'.

    A voice says:  Do you want to win, or do you want to lose?  Guns aren't the answer.

    Hey, CVille. I like the approach of demonstrating what women think, as you suggest, and the kinds of discussions they might  have among themselves---but without showing the lone wolf, who in effect, in this case, would be the target audience. When I imagined my first example, I realized it would be reinforcing the lone wolf's negative feelings. 

    There was a great article at Daily Dot​, per O'Malley, on "toxic masculinity" and I wanted to blog on it but I'm having technical difficulties getting stuff written. In any event, part of the violence we are seeing today with young perpetrators is, in my humble opinion, directly related to men feeling sexually impotent. Then add in the success women are having in the workforce and in areas like starting businesses. These are gross generalizations. Square the application of these generalizations when applied to many other parts of the world.

    The young man who just killed one college student in Flagstaff and wounded several others would seem to be just another young guy who loved guns,  spurred on by his father,  apparently, Now we know he was not a normal young male, he was into guns to the extent that he rushed to the opportunity to use them.  Somehow we need to see the brandishing of weapons of guns in public---including "social" media as abnormal behavior---perhaps advertisements would help.

    The practice of having guns in college classrooms is distressing. Perhaps a general strike of college professors would help spur a sanity movement.

    Perhaps another approach on advertising is simply to contrast the responsible gun owner with the irresponsible gun owner, including the toxic male, thereby reinforcing the good gun owners.

    It's probably clear that I don't like guns and that I think anyone carrying or brandishing a gun in public is abnormal and very potentially dangerous.

    Well, the reason that I used those examples is because the common denominators of these mass shootings seem to be sexual frustration and loneliness in young white men.  I even had a wild idea of having a "motel area" at gun shows, with lady volunteers, but I can't really see that happening. 

    CVille, I agree with your view of some of the causes. The motel---now there's a wild idea. Make a good movie plot.

    I think Michael has introduced an important idea, and one has to ask himself, aren't ads a way to objectify our gun culture in a way that rolls back our sense of powerlessness to stop the idiocy of such things as open carry, wide open gun shows and the dubious right to own assault weapons.


    Great post, Michael, and congrats on the TPM gig.  I live for the day we see public service announcements about guns.  I think you're on to something!

    Society also cast its judgment on gays and gay rights, and the government followed.

    Yes.  And, that was another battle fought primarily in the media.  Ellen came out on her sitcom in the late 1990s.  Will and Grace started up around the same time.  Back then, the idea of same sex marriage was pretty far left.  Now, it's mainstream.  

    Michael, loved your article and signature Maiello insight---"victimless legislation". For the sake of argument, given the investment of gun owners in their rights---doctors didn't rush to the microphone to protest their right to blow smoke into nurses' faces---I'm not sure whether gun control legislation will ever appear to be victimless. 

    EvolveUsa is a grassroots group that is trying a middle-ground approach, with a focus on gun safety. Their hope is to raise awareness among gun owners without turning them off - with online videos like this funny one, and this one.

    While their "aim" is to make owners more careful and less stupid, the group itself is organized, focused and capable enough to expand the message. I do like that the idea is to appeal to everyone who cares about less people dying ... not one particular side of a polarized debate.

    Really good, barefooted.

    Screw you, man, this is just the slippery slope towards taking away our guns.

    Yeah, and then the government will use 'em to take control! And then ... what? Well, sure they already have nukes and stuff ... but they want my rifle! Huh? Hell YEAH our military kicks ass! But they want my gun 'cause then I can't fight back!

    Um, okay. But you do realize that no gun control stuff can take the gun you already have, right? And that if you're a good guy you could still get more? Still do all the cool shooting you do? Hey, dude, take your fingers outta your ears ... what's that you're humming?

    Nice post, Michael.

    I think the real trick is that while cigarettes were always cool, guns (or the kind of gun ownership we're talking about here) is always compensatory ... "cool" or "powerful" for people who feel uncool and powerless on some real level.

    When cigarettes stopped getting you dates, that was the tipping point for cigarettes. But nobody buys an AR-15 to get a date. They buy AR-15s because they can't get dates.

    It's tough to shame people out of a behavior that's already a response to underlying shame.

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