The results of an 18-month survey of advertisements in the National Rifle Association's (NRA) magazine, America's 1st Freedom, squared neatly with the gun group's own tendency to use to fear as a marketing tool.
Media Matters reviewed advertisements that appeared in the NRA magazine from January 2014 through June 2015 and discovered that they appealed to a wide range of fears, including the threat of starvation due to food shortages, the dread of losing the ability to live independently because of declining health, the prospect of a terrorist attack, and the need to carry a collapsible assault weapon in a briefcase for self-protection.
NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre often uses fear to motivate people to support the NRA or purchase firearms.
In a February 2013 column for the magazine, LaPierre argued that Americans needed to buy guns to ensure their “survival” while warning of calamities including, “Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. [and] Lone criminals.” Prior to the 2014 elections, in a special election edition of America's 1st Freedom, LaPierre urged supporters to back the NRA's preferred candidates while raising the specter of several different terrorist attack scenarios, including an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that would kill 9 out of 10 Americans. LaPierre has also warned conservative audiences about the threat of “home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, and rapers, and haters, and campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all.”
Advertisers in the NRA's magazine often played on the same fears, urging readers to buy their products to protect against one calamity or another. Similar to other conservative media websites, some of the products advertised in America's 1st Freedom were of extremely dubious value, including an “anti-aging” supplement that had not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and expensive jewelry made from low-cost materials. Some products in the magazine were simply bizarre or retrograde, including an accent lamp that celebrates the Confederacy and a watch that allows users to “Tell Time Like a Man.”
“The Light Of The South”
“The Light Of The South,” an accent lamp featuring the likeness of Confederate general Robert E. Lee and several pieces of Confederacy iconography, was advertised in the NRA magazine for $135 under the tagline, “Southern Pride Shines On.” The lamp featured several variations of the Confederate flag as well as two CSA (Confederate States of America) emblems and the dates commemorating the beginning and end of the Confederacy.
Food4Patriots Ad Warns You May Be “Setting your Family Up To Starve”
Advertised as “The #1 item to hoard today,” this NRA magazine ad hawked survival food supplies from Food4Patriots. Premised on the prediction that a crisis is coming to the United States that will force people to rely on stockpiled food, the ad warned, “If you don't take action or if you stockpile the wrong foods, you could be setting your family up to starve,” and cautioned against being part of “the brainwashed masses who think 'everything is fine.'” (Despite marketing the packages as “an incredible value,” Food4Patriots has been accused of grossly inflating its pricing over wholesale cost and preying on customers' fears.)
Food4Patriots Ad Warns Of Government Plot To Buy Up Survival Food
Another advertisement from Food4Patriots in the NRA magazine claimed that survival food kits were “literally FLYING off the shelves” and that survival food “is actually sold out in many areas of the country” because “a well-known agency, which is actually responsible for aiding Americans in times of crisis, is hoarding it. Literally, hoarding it!”
Ring Made With Superheated Volcano Ash Promises “Strange Effect On Women”
A Helenite ring sold by Stauer was advertised in the NRA magazine with the tagline: “Man and nature collaborate to create a glamorous green ring guaranteed to rock her world!” Helenite is not particularly valuable; it is essentially a man-made glass. Geology.com warns that purchasers of Helenite should be aware the material “was not produced during the Mount St. Helens eruption,” “is man-made,” and “is not rare.”
A Handgun Laser Sight That Helps Women Act Out Their Maternal Instincts
According to an ad from laser sight seller Crimson Trace, “Your maternal instincts are just that: Instincts. A laser sight says you're prepared to act on them.”
“Breakthrough” Design Means Gun Can Violate Newton's Law
An ad for a Walther handgun made the dubious claim that the gun's recoil violates Newton's third law, which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
A Guide For How “To Survive The Legal Aftermath Of Armed Self Defense”
Second Call Defense, a partner of the NRA Business Alliance, advertised a free report on what to do after shooting someone, including advice on “the legal pitfalls of calling 911 and how to avoid them.”
Kel-Tec's Collapsible Assault Weapon For “Small Or Partially Covered Targets At Shorter Range”
The NRA magazine featured an ad for the Kel-Tec Sub-2000, a carbine-style rifle that was specifically named in proposed assault weapon ban legislation in 2013. As the ad indicates, the weapon can be folded in half, allowing it be concealed inside of a briefcase for “discreet protection.” According to Kel-Tec's website, the rifle “is also very useful against small or partially covered targets at shorter range,” and, “The amount of training to master the SUB-2000 is only a fraction of that required for a handgun.”
Kel-Tec's Compact Tactical Shotgun Featuring A Pistol Grip And Optical Scope
Another product offered by Kel-Tec was a shotgun that promised the ability to “launch a full pound of lead without stopping to reload.”
Watch Helps Customers “Tell Time Like A Man”
A Stauer watch advertised in the NRA magazine promised its wearer the ability to “Tell Time Like a Man” and declared, “This watch doesn't do dainty.”
A Bullet That Is Actually A Knife
One advertised product claimed to transform from one weapon into another and featured a .44 Magnum round that has been modified into a pocketknife.
Supplement Suggests It Can Keep Older People Out Of Nursing Homes
With “HGH” (human growth hormone) in giant block letters, an ad in the NRA's magazine was actually for GHR, a supplement the manufacturer, BIE Health Products, dubiously claimed increases the production of natural HGH in older people. (The use of synthetic HGH is illegal for anti-aging purposes, although it is often abused for that purpose with little evidence of effectiveness.) The ad targets “highly skilled professionals who have made large investments in their education and experience” as well as seniors “who would rather stay independent in their own home, strong, healthy and alert enough to manage their own affairs.” According to one testimonial: “Frank, age 85, walks two miles a day, plays golf, belongs to a dance club for seniors, had a girlfriend again and doesn't need Viagara [sic], passed his drivers test and is hardly ever home when we call - GHR delivers.”
Power Generator Ad: “ISIS Terrorists Could Cripple America's Electric Grid!”
An ad for the solar-powered Patriot Power Generator 1500 played on fears about Islamic State (ISIS) militants by citing Islamaphobe Frank Gaffney's claim that an ISIS attack on the electrical grid could end up killing 90 percent of Americans. Another prediction from a “former CIA official” suggests ISIS could shut down electricity in the United States for 18 months.
“Carry The Cross”: Ad For Pistol Holster Invokes Christ's Crucifixion
An ad appearing in the NRA magazine used Christian imagery to promote the idea of carrying of a concealed handgun.