The Gun Debate: A Marketing Battle

I’ve been thinking a lot about the NRA lately. For most nonprofits, a catastrophic event that puts them in a critical conversation would be a public relations nightmare. The board of directors would be called into question; the CEO would be raked over the coals. Changes would be made.

Wayne LaPierre is the most highly paid CEO of any charity in the USA: $4,645,251 in the last reported year of 2015, according to Charity Watch.

The staggering frequency of mass shootings simply turns up the NRA marketing machine. The talking points are deployed, the media march in lockstep. The questions of “motive” are raised. The drumbeat of sensible gun ownership is walked around the block. But the NRA’s powerful message of freedom and safety remains unscathed, in fact almost emboldened by the relentless regularity of the emotionally exhausting events.



I’m not suggesting anything revolutionary here. I’m not saying we should ban guns. But I do think that the NRA has used its marketing and lobbying muscle to shut down a reasonable conversation that average Americans are ready to have.

As just one example, let me share a recent example: My subway car conversation.

When I got on the #1 subway a week ago, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in years. We recognized each other,  exchanged pleasantries — and then he informed me with some obvious glee that he and his companion, a colleague from his law firm,  had just come from a Police Benevolent Association fundraiser where they’d gotten to shoot guns. Big guns. Automatic weapons. He’d written a check, supported the cops, and gotten to shoot some serious weaponry.

I didn’t respond. I didn’t want to get into a political conversation about gun control on a subway car with someone I hardly knew.

Sensing that I didn't agree with him, the pro-gun attorney dug in. “Steve, seriously, think about how much safer we’d all be if there had been a good guy with a gun in Las Vegas,” he said. His buddy nodded in agreement.  It was just a few weeks after the terrible mass shooting in Las Vegas, and no doubt it was on the minds of a number of the subway riders who were overhearing our conversation.

I waded in carefully. “Well, I’m not sure that more guns are the answer to indiscriminate gun violence,” I noted, my voice neutral.

Somehow, that seemed to push him into a corner. “Seriously, all these shootings — like the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado — all it would have taken was one shot, and lives would have been saved. How can you disagree with that?”

I’d heard the "good guy with a gun” theory before, but honestly, I’d never had to think about how it would work in a real-world situation. Now I was being challenged to explain why a citizen with a gun wouldn’t stop an active shooter.

I responded, “OK, so I’m the good guy, and I’m in the theater, and I hear shots. I stand up, and there’s a guy in body armor. Do I shoot him?”

My pro-gun lawyer friend didn’t miss a beat. “YES! You SHOOT HIM.”

But he’d fallen into my verbal trap. “OK, but he has body armor — what if he’s the cop who’s just entered to take down the shooter? What if I killed a cop?”

Now I was on a roll. “And what if there are two good guys in the theater? What if we see civilians with guns drawn? What if we shoot each other? What if there are three of us, or four, or five? All armed, all pointing guns in a dark theater? Without training, without situational awareness of who’s shooting at civilians, and who’s shooting to defend civilians?

“How does a good guy in Las Vegas decide which window to aim at in the Mandalay Bay hotel? Does a pistol aiming at a building of mirrored windows have any chance of taking out the shooter, or is it more likely to shoot an innocent hotel guest in another room?”

I paused. The train had gone silent. We pulled into the station.

“This is my stop,” the pro-gun lawyer said. “Nice talking with you.”

He got off. I was pretty sure it wasn’t his stop. But faced with logic, and the grim prospect of a good-guy-with-a-gun massacre, he decided to wait for the next train.

Around the car, knowing looks. No words. A few nods. Everyone went back to their iPhone screens.

20 comments about "The Gun Debate: A Marketing Battle".
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  1. Kevin Wilk from City of Walnut Creek, February 19, 2018 at 1:20 p.m.

    Excellent talking points. Logic will one day win out. One day. 

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 19, 2018 at 2:19 p.m.

    You were lucky. He listened, to a degree. "Paranoia runs deep. Into each life it does seep." Maybe you got in a bit before that paranoia propaganda runs any deeper. And thank you.

  3. Ken Kurtz from creative license, February 19, 2018 at 3:39 p.m.

    If by "reasonable conversation" you mean "gun control" then, by definition, that is not "reasonable" at all, nor is it logical.

    The NRA keeps on keeping on, and winds up not being raked over any coals, because it is not, and never has been "at fault" for any deaths. Not a single one (although "the left" continues to do itself a serious disservice by painting the NRA with that deceptive brush of culpability, diminishing its own credibility in the process).

    Just enough Americans understand that every US federal government effort throughout history to "control" or "prohibit" products for which there is great American demand for HAVE ONLY RESULTED in increased demand for those products, increased supply of those products (unfortunately, a cheaper and less safe supply provided by black market criminals), increased engagement with those products, and MORE DEATHS.

    This one simple truth is what allows the NRA to skate. Legal manufacture, distribution, sales, and usage of firearms (what the NRA is all about) is the FAR BETTER alternative to increased controls, or prohibitions. History has proven that, there is no arguing it. What the left resorts to EACH AND EVERY TIME has actually already been proven to make bad matters worse, and the left continues to shoot itself in the foot (and multiple other places) by continuing to go there (and in so going, propagating the NRA). Paradoxical, but true.

    You can do your verbal histrionics, and speculative game-playing on the subway about "chaos averted" by letting the bad guys mow down as many as they can in schools, or movie theatres, or concerts. But you'd best be ready to reap what you sow.

    One armed guard posted outside Sandy Hook Elementary School, seeing Adam Lanza, that sick, 112 pound, anorexic, evil, murderous 20 year old piece of garbage trudge toward the front entrance to that school weighed down by his multiple weapons, and ammo could have put a bullet between his eyes, and saved 20 first graders, and six teachers. Ditto the sick pup at Virginia Tech, that other "no-gun" zone that allowed its sick mass-murderer to just traipse from classroom to classroom re-loading, and killing without any fear of getting shot himself. Ditto Florida, where our own FBI, with full knowledge that this 19 year old was killing animals, and had been threatening to shoot up the school, was too busy spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars tracking down "Russians" posting nice things about Trump on Facebook to put eyes on that 19 year old... the FBI could have mowed him down before he walked halfway from his Uber ride in front of that high school to the door he walked in through to murder his students.

    This society has things bass ackwards on this.

  4. Ken Kurtz from creative license, February 19, 2018 at 3:39 p.m.

    Political correctness will not stand on this issue any longer. The NRA actually brings some sanity to all this, even if they are protecting their own self-interests in this capitalistic society of ours.<br /><br />THE GENIE AIN'T GOING BACK IN THE BOTTLE!

  5. Ken Kurtz from creative license, February 19, 2018 at 4:09 p.m.

    I can hear the conversation between FBI Director Mueller, and one of his agents in Florida just one week before the Florida massacre now...

    "Chief Mueller. We've got intel on a 19 year old kid that's been slaughtering animals since he was 10 that everybody in his soon to be devastated community agrees is ready to massacre innocent children at school. He's got his automatic weapons, and according to all around him, it's "go time." Can I tail him?"

    "Dammit Agent Dumpkoff, I told you it is imerative that you follow up on that 19 year old Russian barrista at the coffee shop in Miami that was posting nice things about Trump on Facebook starting about three months before the 2016 election! She is our priority." 

    "I know, Chief. I just figured since there is zero evidence that Trump's campaign had anything to do with any of this Russian "meddling" that we know has been going on since the beginning of time, and that we know will continue occuring until the end of time, we might turn our attention toward something that can actually have positive impact, save some lives, make our organization look less like we have our heads up our asses."

    "Blasphemy, Agent Dumpkoff! Wait until the American people see the report I release on the "Russian 13" in the next couple of weeks. That kid in Florida is probabaly just blowing smoke..." 

  6. Steve Rosenbaum from NYC Media Lab replied, February 19, 2018 at 6:15 p.m.

    So you're suggesting that every school, public and private, every church, synagogue, and mosque, every movie theatre should have an armed guard at the front door? Would they be paid, or volunteers? If paid, are you proposing a Federal program like TSA to do background checks, hire them, train them, and manage what would be a massive armed domestic security organization? 

  7. Steve Rosenbaum from NYC Media Lab replied, February 19, 2018 at 6:23 p.m.

    I assume you know that doesn't work for the FBI. Christopher A. Wray is the head of the FBI since August of 2017, before that, it was Andrew McCabe, and before that James Comey.  Robert Mueller was the head of the FBI for 12 years - two administrations - September 4, 2001 – September 4, 2013, but he's now the  Special Counsel for the Russia investigation under the Justice Department. Any mistakes regarding the investigation of Nikolas Cruz would be under Christopher Wray.

  8. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, February 20, 2018 at 8:30 a.m.

    So you're suggesting that every school, public and private, every church, synagogue, and mosque, every movie theatre should have an armed guard at the front door? Would they be paid, or volunteers? If paid, are you proposing a Federal program like TSA to do background checks, hire them, train them, and manage what would be a massive armed domestic security organization?

    Take a breath before attempting to set up your "strawman" Steve. Let's be reasonable, and start with schools. Let's drill down a bit deeper, and start with elementary schools (the level of horror there, a la Sandy Hook, and the thought of innocent, precious first graders being mowed down, to me, is a sufficient enough Ground Zero). As for mosques, churches, movie theatres... they are all optional in our society. Knowing adults choose to be in attendance at those places... with schools, innocent children have no choice but to be there.

    So yes. I am saying that we should start by building schools with multiple exit points, but single, reinforced points of entry to be guarded by paid armed sentinels. Retired military, and law enforcement would be good places to start filling these required positions, and it would be incumbent upon the principal of each individual school to make the hire for his/her school (a person, certainly, with inherent interest in the safety of his/her students, and not screwing up that hire).

    My brother's home is just a few miles from the old Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. I surveyed that property in January of 2013 not long after 6 foot tall, 20 year old, 112 pound anorexic weakling Adam Lanza shot his way through that school's single point of entry in December of 2012 to mow down first graders.

    Here's what I know. An armed sentinel in front of that entrance, ex-military, or ex-law enforcement, being paid 30-40 thousand per year would have seen Lanza pull up to the walkway leading to the front entrance of Sandy Hook Elementary on that mild December morning in 2010. That sentinel might have spent the next 30 seconds or so watching Lanza gather up his automatic rifles, and handguns from the trunk of his dead mommy's black Honda Civic, and perhaps giggled to himself while drawing a bead on that evil, sick, punk and putting a bullet between his eyeballs as he lumbered toward Sandy Hook's locked entrance weighed down by the guns that dead mommy bought legally, and with no ill intent. Oh how different that morning would have turned out for 26 parents, and grandparents, and siblings, and families, that community, this nation. How different that blessed holiday season would have been... 

  9. Ken Kurtz from creative license, February 20, 2018 at 3:59 p.m.

    Yeah Steve. Mueller no longer director of the FBI. But does it matter? Point is, look at where our resources are going, and what our bass ackwards government thinks should take priority... attention, and spending-wise. Just fill in the blank. Wray, McCabe, Comey... who cares? Shills in a government organization with no accountability, and that repeatedly exemplifies the innefectuality, inneficiency, and utter ineptitude of our entire federal government. Remember the 9/11 report's "failure of imagination?" What a crock. Our intelligence agencies had information that Muslims that were overstaying their visas were learning how to fly (not take off, or land... just FLY) commercial airliners and the siren bells had gone off about terrorists using this to use commercial airliners as missiles well before 9/11. Failure of imagination, or failure to lift a damn finger to thwart such horror?

  10. Steve Rosenbaum from NYC Media Lab, February 20, 2018 at 4:16 p.m.

    Kenny, simply sitting in front of your computer and criticizing the government doesn't require much effort. Are you a disaffected Trump supporter? Wray was Trump's choice. Or are you a "Deep State" critic that want's to burn the Goverment down? Let's talk specifics. Certainly, no country, or government, or group of people is perfect. But I suspect that you (and I) are the beneficiaries of services, laws, and actions as we together try to make things better for our families and our fellow countrymen. You've got some options - you can vote, you can protest, you can run for office, or of course, you can choose to move to another country. But typing only takes us so far. So, what will it be? 

  11. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, February 20, 2018 at 5:42 p.m.

    Not a Trump supporter, didn't vote for the guy, voted Libertarian. But I have to hand it to him, he very well may restore some accountability to government, even if he doesn't attempt to shrink it as he should.

    Our government is innefficient, inneffective, and inept in part because it lacks accountability, and has an endless supply of taxpayer dollars allowing it to be OK them to throwing shit against the wall in hopes that something sticks. That is both a very broad criticism, and truth. Don't like Trump, but as I've been holding my nose since his election, it has occured to me that he actually does bring experience with risking his own money to make positive things happen to a Washington, DC that just doesn't get that.

    I agree that typing only gets us so far. But then, what's next? Step up and have conversations on the subway? The differences between my typing, and yours, as far as I can see, is that you get paid for yours, and yours advocates for something that not only can never work in America (gun control), it can only make matters worse.

    See the 18th Amendment to our Constitution, which made the manufacture, sale, distribution, and consumption of our nation's most dangerous, debilitating, and deadly recreational drug (alcohol) ENTIRELY ILLEGAL for a glimpse at how well your gun control, or prohibition on guns might work.

    After many years of the manufacture, sale, distribution, consumption of alcohol ACTUALLY INCREASING in the wake of the passing of that Amendment in 1920, we had to get rid of it. That's right, in addition to all those increases, more people were dying from cnsumption of alcohol because the black market was now in control of the manufacture, distribution, and sales. Demand increased, and many more Americans died than normal from that drug because the criminal black market wasn't exactly dotting any i's, or crossing any t's when it came to product safety.

    Fast forward to today. Do you know why so many are dying from "heroin" right now? After many decades of prohibition by our federal government of that "rather natural" byproduct of the poppy plant, the black market realized it was cheaper, and safer to bring in synthetic heroin from China. One packet the size of half of a brick in Steve Rosenbaums jacket pocket can bring $8,000,000 on the street. Flip side of that is that a couple of grains can kill.

    People like you MUST get on the PARADOXES OF PROHIBITION train. Bass ackwards we are, the federal government thinks it's achieving something with our current "Drug War" instituted by Tricky Dick Nixon when he was President. The ignorance is putrid...

  12. Ken Kurtz from creative license, February 20, 2018 at 5:51 p.m.

    By the way, alcohol, made safer and less deadly by eliminating its prohibition many decades ago, remains our nation's most deadly recreational drug. More American's die from alcohol every year than all other recreational drugs combined (including opiates, methamphetamine, cocaine, weed, prescription drugs, etc.). Close to 100,000 Americans die from alcohol every year, that number would be much higher were it still "prohibited."

    For context, only around 30,000 Americans die every year from gunshots, and 2/3 of those deaths are self-inflicted by suicide.

    As such, 300% more people die every year from alcohol than do from guns. Go ahead. Jump on your subway and argue for "alcohol control."

  13. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 20, 2018 at 9:14 p.m.

    Gotta' give you credit, Steve, for you patience. You let such opposition keep speaking, they speak themselves into circles of paranoia nonsense.

  14. Ken Kurtz from creative license, February 21, 2018 at 12:59 p.m.

    The only nonsense here is the idea that the NRA should ever be held culpable for the murderous acts of sick, evil, people... and the idea that gun control, or prohibition could possibly change anything (except flood American streets with more, cheaper, and LESS SAFE guns compliments of the criminal BLACK MARKET that invariably steps in to fill voids in supply--too much profit there for them not to). No paranaoia... just historical truth.

    I had a cousin in the media business in the 80's. He worked for the Newspaper Advertising Bureau. Had some trouble with the dangerous, debilitating, and deadly drug alcohol (he loved the drug too much, and the effects it had upon him) which caused his wife to walk out on him with their two young kids. He got himself a hotel room in Manhattan, and drank himself to death over the course of five days. Alcohol poisoning. One of the 100,000 or so Americans that die annually from that drug. We found multiple empty bottles of Stolichnaya in that hotel room, next to his bloated, purple body.

    Here's an idea. GO AFTER STOLICHNAYA! Better yet, blame it on the Russians (Russian vodka, right?)... they're always trying to disrupt good things like democracy, and marriage. Or far better yet... BLAME IT ON TRUMP who "colludes with Russians." 

    There, that's the "lunatic left" ticket. Additional meaning to the word NONSENSE... what the left trots out day after day. 

  15. PJ Lehrer from NYU, February 21, 2018 at 6:23 p.m.

    If your goal was to get him to reconsider his stance, then your approach was all wrong.  More here...

  16. Steve Rosenbaum from NYC Media Lab replied, February 21, 2018 at 6:35 p.m.

    if it's been "proven" - then why can't research be done since 1996?-> The Dickey Amendment is a provision first inserted as a rider into the 1996 federal government omnibus spending bill which mandated that "none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control."

  17. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, February 22, 2018 at 4:24 p.m.


    Are you here shilling for your blog? I have no interest in getting anybody to reconsider their stance. My interest is in speaking truth only. Read "The Believing Brain" by Michael Shermer for understanding about why changing anybody's "stance" is overrated, and not worth the time.  Not my yob, man...

  18. Ken Kurtz from creative license, February 26, 2018 at 6:50 a.m.

    Some final thoughts. If the NRA was the NMMA (National Mass Murder Association) or NHSA (National Human Slaughter Society)... I could see reasonable people calling for them to be held to account for the Sandy Hook's of this fallen world. They are not those things, and Rosenbaum's entire piece is a red herring. Bottom line... if he's been "thinking about the NRA a lot lately" as his first sentence purports, he's been thinking the wrong things, the wrong way.

    Like we saw with alcohol, which kills far more than guns ever will, our governmental ban resulted in more alcohol, which killed even more people, and created additional chaos on our streets because the criminal black market took over the supply side of the business (with the help of our corrupt government... don't forget, ours is a fallen world). Once we got rid of the dumbass ban on alcohol, and allowed for the legal manufacture, distribution, sale, and ingestion of alcohol again, people stopped shooting each other in the streets (turf wars), and that drug was once again made safer (well, safer than when the criminals were making it, anyway). Has anybody heard of Budweiser shooting up Coors, or Seagrams shooting up Jim Beam in the last 80 years?

    Here's a bit of irony. I personally know three families that have been devastated by the loss of beloved family members to head-on collisions caused by people engaged with their mobile computers (phones) while driving. In two of the accidents, the video that was being watched by the distracted drivers became known. You want to talk culpability? Let's look at some of the technologists that have been instrumental in making internet video so ubiquitous, and done their damnedest to normalize full-time engagement with that crap that is so DUMBING DOWN our society.

  19. Ken Kurtz from creative license, February 26, 2018 at 6:53 a.m.

    That crap appears to be well on its way to killing more Americans annually than even alcohol, which currently kills 3X as many as guns...

  20. Ken Kurtz from creative license, March 1, 2018 at 12:28 p.m.

    I also see irony in a society that propagates individual isolationism (never a good thing, with zero positive attributes associated with it) via its technology offerings, along with hyper-attention to those offerings.

    Watching news reports this morning on the "new normal" as the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS report back to school... hugging each other, supporting each other, and loving on each other. I saw three students interviewed, and each spoke of "being one family" and everybody listening to each other, and talking to each other for comfort. Common trauma can have that effect. The sad thing is it took a tragedy like this to get kids to treat each other in this "abnormal" way (abnormal for them, anyway, absent such an event).

    Unfortunately, those same students will have their noses buried in their mobile devices again within a week, or two, and will be bullying, and posting terribly mean things on unsocial media about some of the very same peers they're "hugging" this week in the aftermath of that tragedy. If we get real, it's more tragic that people would rather listen to, and speak to a device like Amazon's "Alexa" than to their peers. That people are less likely to diss "Alexa" than the "different girl" three lockers down. That people would rather make fun of, and bully that girl "three lockers down" than reach out to her because it's so easy to diss her, and make her feel bad while hiding behind their digital devices, and attempting to make themselves feel better.

    The real tragedy is that technology, and its propensity for turning human beings inward, and creating feelings of unfulfillment, very well may be one of the root causes of people slaughtering other people. I know. Thoughts like this hurt some peoples' heads. Especially those that are in the business of hawking technology at the expense of human interaction. Easier to blame sick, evil, murderous human beings on the NRA even if it is totally illogical. Easier to write about, hurts the "believing brain" and the head that holds it in less, and more sheeple will think it's true. Of course, more people will be wrong.

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