As part of efforts to raise public awareness about the risks and dangers of owning guns, a gun control group called States United To Prevent Gun Violence (SUPGV), decided to open a fake gun store for two days in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
The Washington Post reports that the group set up a fake gun shop in an art gallery stocked with authentic-looking prop weapons, including fake pistols, rifles and shotguns, and even a “patriotic” flag to give an authentic pro-gun “Patriot” feeling.
The group also set up a fake sales promotion website, GunsWithHistory.com, that gives viewers information about how gun ownership increases the risk of unintentional homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings involving children.
On Tuesday, March 17, 2015, the group, which lobbies for expanded gun control laws, released a video showing how prospective gun buyers reacted when confronted with the homicide histories of the gun they were trying to buy.
The video, which has gone viral online, begins by attempting to debunk the widely held notion that owning a gun makes you safer.
“Over 60 percent of Americans think owning a gun will make their lives safer. In fact owning a gun increases the risk of homicide, suicide and unintentional death. To make first-time gun buyers think twice, we did the unthinkable — we opened a gun shop in NYC.”
The video then shows the fake gun shop with hidden cameras pretending to be open for business. Potential customers soon begin wandering in, each showing interest in particular brands and types of guns.
One prospective customer says, “I’m pro-Second Amendment, you know, so it’s kinda hard to find that in New York City.”
The actor, posing as the store owner, pretends to encourage them to buy a gun, yet he gives disturbing homicide histories of the guns that prospective customers show interest in buying, including unintentional shootings involving children that make for a very ineffective sales pitch.
“Collectors love this one. Adam Lanza’s mom had this in her collection, too, until he took this and several other guns and killed her and went down to Sandy Hook and killed six teachers and 20 innocent children. Twenty little kids, gone, like that.”
“… This revolver, it’s the easiest gun we have to use. It’s our most popular one. It’s a 22-caliber, six-inch revolver. It’s also a gun that a five-year-old found in his parents’ bedroom, went down and shot his nine-month-old baby brother with it.”
Some of the prospective buyers appear to pause and reconsider their decision to make a purchase after learning the blood-soaked history behind the gun of their choice. Some even reflect aloud on the risks of owning a gun.
Speaking on the goal of the group in releasing the video, Leah Gunn Barret, executive director of the group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV), told The Washington Post, “Our goal was to grab people’s attention. Gun owners often believe that firearms make them safer, but having a gun in your home actually makes you far less safe for homicide, suicide and domestic violence.”
According to Barrett, the group is focusing on parents who keep firearms in their homes.
“Gun suicide among American youth aged 10-19 is at a 12-year high and in 82 percent of the cases of kids killing themselves with guns, the gun belonged to a family member, usually a parent.”
The video has drawn flak from conservative news outlets such as the Daily Caller, Breitbart, Hot air, and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association (NYSRPA), an affiliate of the National Rifle Association in New York.
Thomas King, president of the NYSRPA, criticized the video and called on the authorities to investigate alleged violations of the state’s gun laws.
“[It is a] felony violation of the Sullivan Act for a person to possess a handgun anywhere in New York without a license. The video clearly shows individual ‘customers’ handling various handguns and doing so in an unsafe manner.”
However, Media Matters points out that the group’s call for a criminal investigation is based on the mistaken belief that real guns were used illegally in the video. As already noted, the guns used in the video were fake guns.
The Washington Post also notes that the video, which has received nearly 2.5 million views on YouTube alone, represents a significant deviation from the tactics that the gun lobby has employed in the past, such as lobbying legislature and organizing conferences. With little chance that the gun control lobby would be able to pass any gun control legislation, gun control advocates are trying to appeal directly to the public.
It remains to be seen how successful such efforts would be. But the task appears daunting given recent polls which show that majority of Americans are opposed to stricter gun control legislation and more supportive of gun rights in recent years.
The tragedies of Aurora, Colorado, and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut swayed public opinion only momentarily. Despite daily reports of domestic gun violence and accidental gun deaths and claims by gun control advocates that cases of use of guns for legitimate defensive purposes are relatively rare and that guns in the domestic environment are more likely to cause death of a family member and similar accidents than find use for legitimate self-defensive purposes, people continue to derive a sense of security from keeping guns in their homes.