Will the FTC Curb Free Speech for Gun Manufacturers?

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posted on August 27, 2022
FTC

Not content with their ongoing efforts to trample the Second Amendment-protected liberties of America’s law-abiding gun owners, anti-gun advocates have set their sights on the First Amendment rights of lawful gun manufacturers.

To achieve this goal, gun-control groups have been pushing to have the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulate the way gun companies advertise their products. In a petition filed earlier this year, these groups even claimed gunmakers suggesting that firearms make their owners safer is false advertising.

“The FTC is failing consumers, failing our democracy and failing the millions of Americans who have lost their lives or their loved ones to gun violence,” read the petition filed by gun-control groups Brady, the Giffords Law Center, March For Our Lives and the FACT Coalition. “The FTC’s inaction has also harmed countless more Americans who must live with the scars, trauma and emotional and economic damage that America’s gun violence epidemic, fomented by the gun industry for profit, has caused . … The FTC can and must change this.”

As mentioned, the push isn’t exactly a new one. What also isn’t new is the gun-control groups’ disregard for the million-plus times a year that law-abiding Americans throughout the country use firearms to protect themselves and their families. These groups have always pretended that armed self-defense never happens, they blame gunmakers for the actions of criminals, and now they are blaming the FTC for not regulating gunmakers’ advertising—a novel idea they first floated in 1996.

“At that time, the American public understood—accurately and consistent with public health data—that owning a gun or having a gun in the home made them, their families and their loved ones less safe, not more safe,” the petition from gun-control groups alleges. “But decades of unfair and deceptive advertising—unchecked by the FTC—have flipped the script. Americans now believe, against all the evidence, that having a gun in their home or on their person makes them and their loved ones safer.”

Of course, one only needs to read the incredible collection of Armed Citizen stories available on this website to see what a lie that is. Yet such easy-to-find information—like the fact that studies show about 1.6 million defensive gun uses a year—goes seemingly unnoticed, or perhaps intentionally ignored, by the petitioners. Contrary to that fact, they continue to claim such defensive use seldom occurs.

“In rare instances, some gun owners do successfully use their weapons in the midst of the extreme terror of self- or home-defense,” the petition stated. “But the evidence establishes that any such examples are the exception rather than the rule.”

Another misleading claim this petition revolves around is the claim that the use of patriotic, militaristic, or macho images and language in firearms advertising is deliberately being used to appeal to “insurrectionists” and mass murderers.

“Moreover, the gun industry has begun pushing even more dangerous themes in its advertisements to target and radicalize certain consumers, convincing them that they need expensive, military-grade weaponry for everyday use,” the petition said.

Of course, none of the companies whose advertising these gun-ban advocates seek to curtail sell “military” weapons to private citizens. They do sell commonly owned semi-automatic rifles, of which some 24 million are privately owned by citizens throughout the country, according to a recent report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). Additionally, as NRA-ILA recently pointed out, such patriotic and macho images are frequently used to sell a wide range of other products to young Americans, from beer to sunglasses.

In the end, Smith & Wesson CEO and President Dan Smith probably addressed the claim that gun advertising causes mass murder best in his response to recent congressional hearings, when Smith wrote in a statement, “We will continue to work alongside law enforcement, community leaders and lawmakers who are genuinely interested in creating safe neighborhoods. We will engage those who genuinely seek productive discussions, not a means of scoring political points. We will continue informing law-abiding citizens that they have a Constitutionally protected right to defend themselves and their families. We will never back down in our defense of the 2nd Amendment.”

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