Guns as Cool As Cigarettes–NRA

The NRA has two overarching image problems. One is the way it arms “bad guys” through fighting universal background checks and defending gun “rights” of domestic abusers and people with mental illness. Thanks for that.

The other is that young people do not find Bubbaland cool. Half of all millennials now support stricter gun laws and only 18 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds even own a gun!

Nor is hunting a cool pursuit. Kids are more involved with “cars, girlfriends or hanging out” Kevin Kelly, a college student, told the lower Hudson Valley’s Journal News. “Only a couple of my friends really hunt,” high school student Jonathan Gibbons told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “The rest have never really found the appeal of sitting out in the cold to shoot an animal.”

Enter NRA Freestyle and NRA Sharp, two gun owner image overhauls that are “about as appealing to young folk as MTV under the direction of George Will,” writes former New Yorker staffer Mike Spies. The NRA Freestyle channel seeks to show what babe magnets guns are and NRA Sharp offers lifestyle tips. It is a “kind of GQ meets BuzzFeed for stylish gun owners,” says Spies.

Many have observed that we are at the second-hand smoke moment in gun violence. We no longer believe another person’s “right” to smoke or carry a lethal weapon does not impact (or should that be infringe?) upon the rest of us. There is also growing resistance to the intimidation tactics of bullies. That is why corporations like Starbucks, Sonic Drive-In, Chili’s Grill & Bar, Chipotle, Jack in the Box and Target are increasingly disinviting guns in their stores for the safety of their other patrons.

The NRA’s attempt to make guns cool is also like Big Tobacco whose shameless ads told women that cigarettes liberated them (Virginia Slims) and men that they were babe magnets (Camel Filters Man). The cartoon character “Joe Camel” blatantly hawked smoking to kids charged the American Medical Association in 1991.


Of course there are other similarities between Big Tobacco and the gun lobby. Both had a stranglehold on Congress (the NRA still does) even as their products were killing every day. And Big Tobacco and gun manufacturers were the only two industries that could not be sued. Today there is only one and it is not Big Tobacco.

More than a decade ago, corporate America said about cigarettes, “you want to bring WHAT in here?” and it spelled the end of smoking in public places. Banning dangerous products that kill was clearly a good business decision. When will corporate America say “you want to bring WHAT in here” about guns?

Smoking images courtesy of Marjorie Fujara, M.D.

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