A new viral video that highlights ways guns have been involved in tragedies is drawing heavy criticism from conservative media and from a National Rifle Association affiliate group that wants a criminal investigation into its creation, based on the group's mistaken belief that real guns were illegally used in the video.
On March 17, gun safety group States United to Prevent Gun Violence (SUPGV) released a video debunking the notion that gun ownership makes a person safer. (Research has demonstrated that owning a gun increases the risk of death or injury.)
SUPGV conducted a “hidden camera social experiment” to record the reactions of potential gun buyers at a fake gun store they had set up in Manhattan. When prospective purchasers inquired about a firearm, the clerk informed the customer of tragedies -- including mass shootings and unintentional shootings involving children -- that involved the use of that particular model of firearm. Hidden cameras recorded prospective gun buyers' shocked reactions:
The video is paired with a website, GunsWithHistory.com, that has more information on how gun ownership increases the risk of homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings.
SUPGV's video, which has gone viral, is now under attack from official NRA affiliate The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association (NYSRPA), which is calling for the New York attorney general to investigate SUPGV for criminal violations under the baseless theory that the group violated New York's gun laws in making the video:
The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association is calling upon state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate the producer of the video for potential violations of state and local laws.
“First off, the firearms and accessories hanging in the background do not appear to comply with either New York City law or the so-called SAFE Act,” said NYSRPA President Thomas King in a statement.
“Second, it felony violation of the Sullivan Act for a person to posses a handgun anywhere in New York without a license. The video clearly shows individual 'customers' handling various handguns and doing so in an unsafe manner,” King said.
But NYSRPA's premise for legal action is based on a false assumption. Contrary to the group's suggestion, no real guns were used during the making of the ad. As Guns.com noted, “The firearms, like the store itself, were all fake and a New York Police Department official was on site to monitor operations.”
SUPGV's video was also attacked with falsehoods by conservative media. Breitbart.com's AWR Hawkins attempted to debunk the video's message about gun ownership increasing risk by claiming that “guns are used approximately 2,082 times every day in America for defensive purposes,” apparently citing discredited gun researcher John Lott. Actual academic research has found that defensive gun uses are so rare that they are difficult to even measure. However, research into the ratio of defensive gun uses compared to criminal gun uses has found that guns are far more often used to commit crimes than they are used in lawful self-defense. According to the FBI, the ratio of criminal gun homicide to justifiable homicide with a firearm is approximately 37-to-1.
The falsehoods about defensive gun use at Breitbart.com were amplified by an article at the conservative Daily Caller website that argued the video was meant to “shame” gun buyers.
Hawkins also attacked the ad for referencing the AR-15 assault weapon that was used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Hawkins wrote, “the clerk did not mention that [the gunman] could have used a well-worn revolver or a single shot shotgun to the same effect, as Sandy Hook was a gun free zone in which he had over 9 minutes to walk room to room and commit his atrocities without any armed resistance.”
The facts of the shooting also disprove Hawkins' claim that the gunman could have used a revolver or single shot shotgun to similar effect. Authorities have said several children were able to escape the gunman as he paused to reload. If the gunman were to have used a revolver or single shot shotgun, he would have had to reload many more times than he did while using an AR-15 with high-capacity 30-round magazines. (The time between the first and last shot fired was actually less than 5 minutes, meaning the gunman fired a round approximately every two seconds.)