Gays Against Guns Wants You To Join Their Boycott To Support GVP.

Back after the horrendous event at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I wrote that the emergence of the LGBTQ community in the gun violence prevention (GVP) space was not only a positive development for LGBTQ activism, but would be an important alliance for GVP insofar as changing our cultural views on guns might benefit from lessons learned by LGBTQ when it came to changing cultural views about gays.  Now I’m beginning to wonder whether rather than forging an alliance between the two communities, the GVP folks might want to sit down and take some specific lessons from their new-found friends in LGBTQ.

gayslogo2           And what has moved me to consider that perhaps LGBTQ activists might become the vanguard for GVP is a new strategy that is being rolled out by the Gays Against Guns group that, as far as I am concerned, is the non plus ultra way to deal with gun violence and other issues which demonstrate that it’s simply too easy in the United States for anyone to get their hands on a gun. The strategy involves boycotting companies and products that offer discounts and deals to members of the NRA, the list of such discounts partners now runs to more than 2,000 vendors on the NRA website, which also has a section listing discounts from major chains..

I want to make clear that what follows is not (read: not) in any way shape or form a suggestion or proposal to engage in any kind of boycott or other financial attack on the individual business owners who comprise probably 95% of the NRA discount list.  For the most part these folks own gun shops or other, independent retail outlets whose inventory caters to the shooting crowd.  Many, if not most are NRA members themselves and it would be wrong to suggest or even imply that such individuals should suffer in any way because the NRA takes extreme stances on certain issues related to the violence caused by guns.

On the other hand, the NRA website offers member discounts from major corporations all the way from A to Z.  Want medical, life, property or insurance against cancer and other health risks?  It’s all there.  Hearing aids, automobiles, moving services, wine or cigars – it’s all there.  Now maybe the NRA hasn’t yet reached the level of the AARP, which rewards its members with a free cup of coffee with any item bought at Burger King, but don’t for a moment think that such discounts aren’t being considered or planned.

The NRA obviously doesn’t have a membership list which compares to the AARP, but the Wyndham Hotel company, which operates nearly 8,000 hotels in 73 countries and includes such brands as Ramada, Travelodge and Days Inn, lists itself as an NRA discount partner in order to help fill its more than 680,000 nightly rooms. And like it or not, corporations, particularly large corporations are public entities, and they deserve to know if a marketing partner takes a public stance with which potential customers happen to disagree.

The reason I mention Wyndham is that Gays Against Guns has launched a boycott against the company’s brands and has also announced a boycott of Hertz and FedEx because all three companies offer discounts to members of the NRA.  Money that major corporations share with the NRA through member discounts isn’t necessarily chump change.  First Bancard, which underwrites an NRA Visa card, has sent the gun organization more than $24 million, which represents a cut of the underwriting revenue earned by people using the card.

Cash has a funny way of making more noise than words, which is why boycotts are often the most effective way for people to make their feelings heard.  I never imagined that in my lifetime I would see an end to apartheid in South Africa, the freeing of Nelson Mandela and a dismantling of the deKlerk regime. But it happened in 1994 and boycotts in the U.S. and other countries helped pave the change. Would the boys in Fairfax sit up and notice if revenue from boycotted partners started to drift away?


Want To Build An Effective GVP Campaign? Don’t Talk About It – Sell It.

               A few years ago I was at a gun show in York, PA, a farm town about 60 miles west of Philadelphia.  Talk about a gun show ‘loophole,’ the entire show was a loophole because all the 200 or so tables were taken by guys who proudly displayed their junky, old guns along with other slightly rusted bric-a-brac.  But I can tell you there wasn’t a single person walking around the armory who had the slightest intention of doing anything illegal with a gun.

               About a week before the show, Pennsylvania had changed its CCW law, moving from being a discretionary, ‘may issue’ to a non-discretionary ‘shall issue’ state. The Sheriff in York was so inundated by applicants that he had to bring in additional help.  I happened to be standing next to a guy who had just come from the Sheriff and was being interviewed by a reporter from Philadelphia who heard about the long delays and came out to see what was up.  The interview went as follows:

               Reporter:  How long did you have to wait to get processed?

               Gun Guy:  Oh, three or four hours.  Was a mess.

               Reporter:  Why do you want a concealed-carry license?

               Gun Guy:  Well, I’m worried about all the crime around here.

               Reporter:  You know, I checked before coming out and York hasn’t had a serious crime in the last two years.

               Gun Guy:  Yea, but they’ll come out from Philadelphia.

               Now leaving aside the identification of the “they’ from Philadelphia, the bottom line is that the gentleman who waited for hours to apply for CCW did it for God knows what reason, but when he was asked to explain his behavior to a reporter (representing the ‘main-stream’ media no less) he fell back on the same rationale for CCW that Gun Nation has been promoting for the last thirty years.  And a majority of Americans who are asked why they own guns and whether guns make them safer buy that same argument, hook, line and sinker.  It turns out, of course, that most legal gun owners tend to live in low-crime areas and the number of people who actually use guns to defend themselves from criminal attacks are an infinitesimally tiny proportion of the population who claim that the benefit of gun ownership outweighs the risk.

So why do so many Americans believe a story about guns that runs contrary to what gun violence research shows again and again to be true?  Because to the extent that people who own guns spend any time thinking about why they own guns beyond the fact that they enjoy owning and playing around with guns, they are going to repeat what they hear, and what they hear is what the NRA tells them again and again.

I am a member both of the NRA and the AARP.  I get three times as much mail and emails from the NRA as I get from AARP.  And the NRA makes me feel special and unique because I own guns.  The only thing that makes me special to the AARP is that I have lived past their minimum membership age.  And the idea that guns are a risk?  Hell, I never shot myself or anyone else.

The problem faced by the GVP community is that, like it or not, most of their proposals for reducing gun violence are sensible and realistic, but they still require me to change my behavior in some way or another in order to enjoy my guns. And frankly, I don’t want to be told about changing my behavior by someone who doesn’t own guns.  Why should I change my behavior?  I haven’t done anything wrong with my guns. 

The GVP uses evidence-based research to compete against a slick marketing campaign. Maybe they should take on the NRA by selling, not just explaining their message.  You think an outfit like Saatchi & Saatchi couldn’t take forty million from Mayor Mike and figure out how to change hearts and minds?