Sandy Hook Promise (SHP), an activist group out of Connecticut, has created a heart-tugging “public service announcement” that it hopes will capture the public’s imagination.
Spoiler alert: The spot reveals the organization as simply another anti-gun group that wants to marginalize firearm ownership. The main takeaway from its PSA is that any young person who shows an interest in guns should be treated as a would-be mass killer.
The 2 ½ minute PSA focuses on “Evan,” a lonely high school student who finds himself in an unlikely courtship after he starts writing on a desk in the school library. Someone begins answering his messages, and Evan reawakens to the world around him, pondering who his correspondent might be. Finally, he scrawls, “Who are you??” But on the day he would presumably read the answer, he discovers the library has been closed for the summer. The despondent Evan consoles himself with the ritual of signing the yearbooks being passed out in the school gym. A pretty young classmates recognizes his handwriting from the desk, however, and reveals herself to be the secret messenger on the other side of the conversation. But their moment is cut short by the sudden appearance of a classmate in the doorway, menacingly racking a rifle and causing the students to flee in terror.
In a final plot twist, the PSA then lectures its viewers that while they were watching Evan, “another student was showing signs of planning a mass shooting. But no one noticed.” It then goes on to replay the scenes, spotlighting the “signs” depicted in the background. They consist of another student reading a gun magazine; rudely putting on his headphones when approached by another student; having his headphones ripped off in the school hallway; looking at a firearm-related video in the library; and posting a picture of himself on social medial pointing a handgun, with a message to another user, “see you at school.”
No wonder nobody noticed.
Mixing guns and school on social media posts, depending on the context, admittedly could provoke justifiable alarm. But the other supposed “signs” could just as easily apply to an introvert with a completely harmless interest in music and firearms. To suggest they would require intervention only shows that SHP is wholly detached from gun culture and would just as soon ban interest in guns as the guns themselves.
SHP also promises that it “strongly believes in upholding the rights of gun owners – we do not support bans on firearms, demonize gun owners or believe the sole cause of gun violence is the ‘gun’.”
It’s hard to see how that could be the case, however, based on the PSA. From cars and trucks, to bikes, to pro wrestling, to mixed martial arts, to music, to movies, to video games, and – yes – to firearms, teens often single-mindedly immerse themselves in hobbies and subcultures. Singling out an interest in firearms as a predictor of impending violence is the very definition of demonizing gun owners. Untold thousands of high school students responsibly and constructively use firearms in a variety of ways, including hunting, target practice, and even scholastic shooting teams.
And for SHP to suggest that schools somehow underreact to any expressed interest in firearms is laughably absurd. The problem is exactly the opposite, as students have been routinely disciplined (and sometimes arrested) in schools throughout the country for harmless actions that merely suggest the idea of a firearm. These include wearing clothing depicting firearms or NRA insignia, displaying a computer image of a firearm, expressing pro-gun views in class assignments, pointing “finger guns” at each other, suggesting that firearms are a tool of self-defense, or even chewing food into a “firearm” shape. Schools certainly need no further encouragement to adopt antigun hysteria as official policy.
SHP wants parents and responsible adults to “promise to do all I can to protect children from gun violence …” Yet protecting themselves and their families from violence is, in fact, the very reason most Americans choose to own guns.
And while we certainly agree that awareness of your children’s behavior and interests is a good thing, SHP over-promises that “[e]very act of violence is preventable.” No serious person has ever believed that, however much we all might wish it to be true. That’s why a firearm in the hands of a straight-shooting good guy is, and will remain, the best safeguard against the often unpredictable behavior of a murderous bad guy.