“Gun Sellers Stoke Fears to Boost Weapon Sales” is an alarmist 2,800-word investigation that led Sunday’s New York Times. It started with a little light mindreading. But the worst offense against fairness was the breathless portrayal of the fact gun companies commit marketing, like every other business sector.
Last November, hours after a jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse of two shooting deaths during antiracism protests in 2020, a Florida gun dealer created an image of him brandishing an assault rifle, with the slogan: “BE A MAN AMONG MEN.”
Mr. Rittenhouse was not yet a man when he killed two people and wounded another in Kenosha, Wis. — he was 17 — but he aspired to be like one. And the firearms industry, backed by years of research and focus groups, knows that other Americans do, too.
Reporters Mike McIntire, Glenn Thrush, and Eric Lipton omitted the fact Rittenhouse acted in self-defense.
Gun companies have spent the last two decades scrutinizing their market and refocusing their message….The sales pitch — rooted in self-defense, machismo and an overarching sense of fear — has been remarkably successful.
….Women, spurred by appeals that play on fears of crime and being caught unprepared, are the fastest-growing segment of buyers.
The reporter trio didn’t quite have the nerve to claim crime fears were unjustified these days, but certainly implied that gun marketing was distressingly “fear”-heavy. It shows they hate guns — because they don’t mind if you use “fear” of climate change to sell electric cars.
The Times examined firearms marketing research to imply standard marketing techniques are somehow sinister when gun firms do it: “….the firearms industry has sliced and diced consumer attributes to find pressure points — self-esteem, lack of trust in others, fear of losing control — useful in selling more guns.” They accurate noted gun sales rise after major shootings “as buyers snap up firearms they worry will disappear from stores.”
Whatever the source of Americans’ sense of unease, the result is a country flooded with firearms and no end in sight.
“Fear,” said Darrell Miller, co-director of the Duke Center for Firearms Law, “is an incredibly powerful motivator.”
The Times marked the transition in gun advertising campaigns through the decades, from hunting to “armed self-defense….accompanied by a surge in popularity of the Glock semiautomatic handgun and AR-15-type rifle.”
The aggressive messaging around fear has also helped define a newer crop of gun rights groups that increasingly overshadow the more deep-pocketed, but troubled, N.R.A. These groups, supported by the industry, have adopted a raw, in-your-face advocacy of near limitless freedom to own and carry firearms….Their tone has grown more extreme along with the public discourse around guns in general.
The reporters half-heartedly hinted at racism:
The image of Mr. Rittenhouse was put on Facebook by Big Daddy Unlimited, a firearms retailer in Gainesville, Fla., whose owners have said they started selling guns after the Sandy Hook massacre raised fears of new restrictions. “Be a Man Among Men” was a recruiting slogan used by the colonialist army of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and has gained popularity among white nationalist groups in recent years, although it is also used outside of that context.
The reporters did interview a gun-owning black woman who said, “We cannot expect the government to protect us, because they haven’t.”
The above exchange was the closest thing to a hint that in the Times’ dream world, only the government, i.e. the military and police, despised by the left, would be allowed to carry guns. This after two years of post-George Floyd police-bashing from the paper. And nothing about self-defense or police failure to confront armed killers even in elementary schools, as seen in Uvalde, Texas.