It happened to my family on December 14, 2012 when my mother mistook the sounds of a Bushmaster AR-15 for dropping lunch trays at Sandy Hook Elementary School. If not for the heroic efforts of a custodian who warned my mom and other teachers to lock their classrooms, we might have endured the unfathomable tragedy of 26 neighboring families.
Picture a full crowd at Yankee Stadium shot dead each year.
We know American gun violence is solvable because it does not exist anywhere else. Yet we have come to accept this basic threat to personal safety as just another symptom of seemingly intractable polarization.
We are trapped between two narrative frameworks, compassion and freedom, that do not overlap.
With 1.2 guns now in circulation for every American, no one is seriously talking about repealing the Second Amendment. The objective now is to reduce firearm injury.
It's time for cultural influencers and professional persuaders to engage. There is common ground in framing gun safety as a matter of personal responsibility.
The talented people in our industry have the capacity to halt the ceaseless demonization, inspire to greatness, and shake fellow citizens out of our stupor.
While national political progress is stymied, there is progress at the local level. In Massachusetts, for example, businesspeople and gun owners at www.stophandgunviolence.org have successfully implemented common sense gun-safety laws and reduced gun deaths by 40% since 1994 without banning guns.
If every state applied the Massachusetts gun-safety model and had the same low gun-death rate, 27,000 American lives would be saved every year. There are many local green shoots of hope like the Newtown Action Alliance's local gun buy-back program or Chicago's Project H.O.O.D.'s efforts to fight poverty and recidivism that contributes to violence.
In 2017, Carolyn Everson, Kristin Lemkau, and other industry colleagues decided they could stand idly by no longer. They founded the Gun Safety Alliance, which is an umbrella group of business executives supporting grassroots Gun Violence Prevention Groups across the country.
We have done things like:
- Independent market research
- Target audience segmentation and insights
- Social marketing training
- Pro-bono ad campaigns
We need all the help we can get. We’ve got work underway on topics like:
- Campaigning for Massachusetts-style gun safety laws and regulations in Colorado
- Developing a pro-bono campaign persuading AAPI households not to arm themselves
- Developing a canonical performance data set of gun-safety creative
- Fundraising for a common metric to benchmark workplace safety
- Re-framing the conversation around gun safety in a way both sides will hear.
There are thousands of causes worthy of the creative talent in this industry.
Basic human safety is foundational. Your talent will make a difference.
Brian Monahan grew up in Sandy Hook, CT. He has worked at Dentsu, Pinterest, Walmart, and IPG. He volunteers with the Gun Safety Alliance.