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D.C. Council Chair Targets Responsible Shooting Opportunities

Friday, August 16, 2013

Most anti-gun politicians who are quick to violate the rights of gun owners at least have the sense to grudgingly appreciate the contribution to the tax base made by in-state firearm manufacturers and related industries. This can be seen in the recent attempts of some Northeast states to hold onto firms that are looking to move South and West, and take the jobs they offer with them. With this in mind, D.C. City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson's attempt to admonish the D.C.-based company LivingSocial for merely offering organized events where alcohol could be consumed after a trip to a shooting range, borders on the bizarre.

Billed by LivingSocial as "adventures," the criticized deals (examples of which can be seen here and here) included a trip to a range to sample a variety of firearms, followed by a stop at brewery, bar or restaurant (with the firearms of course having been left at the range). As LivingSocial's Chief Spokesman Andrew Weinstein explained to the Hill, participants were required to sign a form testifying to their sobriety, and staff members were trained to turn away anyone who appeared intoxicated. The deals offered a constructive way to introduce urbanites, and others unfamiliar with firearms, to the shooting sports in a safe setting monitored by certified instructors.  Such familiarization is the very thing so-called "supporters of the Second Amendment," in groups like Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the like, insist they want.

On July 17, Mendelson sent LivingSocial's Co-founder and CEO Tim O'Shaughnessy a letter protesting the company's "lack of clear policy against offering online consumer deals that pair the use of firearms with the consumption of alcohol," and requesting that the company adopt one. Rather than any immediate practical safety concern, Mendelson claimed that by offering these deals LivingSocial was promoting an undesirable psychological association between alcohol and guns. Mendelson likened his request to, and touted, the District's current ban on beer sales at gas stations as a way to dissociate alcohol and driving. By Mendelson's logic, it might be considered undesirable for young adults to use their driver's license to prove their age when purchasing alcohol.

Pseudo-psychology aside, Mendelson's move is even more curious considering the D.C. City Council's onerous gun regulations have already effectively banned publicly accessible ranges within the city limits that could host such an event. And while some events have been offered within a short drive of D.C., in Maryland and Virginia, LivingSocial has promoted these types of events all over the country.

In May, well before Mendelson's complaint, LivingSocial became the target of anti-gun groups CREDO Action, Corporate Accountability International, the Gun Truth Project and MomsRising. Collectively, the groups launched a campaign with the absurdly over-the-top name DyingSocial, complete with a "report," t-shirts, a petition, phone campaign and a sparsely attended protest outside LivingSocial's headquarters.

The DyingSocial "report" is predictably short on logic and betrays a larger agenda of gun prohibition. Using a straw man fallacy, a significant portion of the document is dedicated to the dangers of mixing alcohol and firearms, despite the fact that in the events it targets the consumption of alcohol is completely segregated from the handling of firearms. The "report" also disapprovingly accuses LivingSocial of helping the gun industry sell more firearms, suggesting that these anti-gun groups are against all gun sales and use, responsible or otherwise.

Making both Mendelson's letter and the DyingSocial campaign irrelevant, LivingSocial has in recent weeks eliminated their "adventures" operation to focus on larger-scale events. In an email conversation with a reporter regarding the Mendelson letter, a spokesperson for LivingSocial noted, "We are happy to meet with Mr. Mendelson at any time to help him understand this; however, we are sure that he has more important things to do."

We agree with the spokesperson's sentiment regarding Mendelson's workload. In the future, Mendelson would do well to focus less on internet deals offering responsible shooting opportunities paired with later opportunities for drinks and more on the less structured, and far more consequential, shooting taking place in parts of his own city.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.