On June 29th, the National Rifle Association posted a one-minute video advertisement to its Facebook page featuring conservative television host Dana Loesch of the Blaze.
It is the view of the Editorial Board that the content of this ad continues to deepen America’s social and cultural divisions, that it displays an astonishing amount of hypocrisy and, for some, may even inspire gun owners to violence.
The video begins by accusing liberals of using the media, schools and Hollywood elites to push their agenda. It then equates liberals’ contempt for discrimination with violent protests. And it concludes by saying, “The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with the clinched fist of truth.”.
Egregious claims like these continue to divide our nation by portraying our lifestyles and institutions as threats to one another—when they’re not and don’t have to be.
The problem with the ad isn’t that it directly promotes violence, but that it presents a “paranoid vision of American life that encourages the NRA’s fans to see liberals not as political opponents, but as monsters,” as described by Zack Beauchamp, writing for Vox.
If the ad had been about protecting yourself from armed assailants or even to support hunting, then promoting gun ownership would make sense. If the video had claimed liberals are taking over America so you should vote Republican, then that would also make sense because voting doesn’t result in death.
But using a gun does.
What makes the video particularly disturbing is that it presents gun ownership as a solution to an unwelcome ideology. And the only thing guns are capable of is taking a life—which is never a justified response to the spread of a political agenda.
In June 2015, a study from the National Comorbidity Study Replication found that there is a disproportionate number of gun owners prone to violent tendencies, which makes the sub-textual message of this ad even more terrifying.
The video also comes at an unusual time, since President Trump declared at an NRA convention in April that the “eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end. You have a true friend and champion in the White House,” according to the New York Times.
With a conservative-leaning Supreme Court and Republicans controlling Congress and the White House, gun owners have no reason to worry about their legal rights.
This is why the Editorial Board believes the NRA ad is purely meant to heighten a social and cultural divide.
Violence as a substitute for respectful political discourse is never defensible, so the Editorial Board will not deny or condone the behavior of violent liberals.
But the NRA ad irresponsibly ignores the violence by those on the political right.
On Sunday morning, President Trump tweeted a video of a WWE broadcast, edited to show him beating up a man with a CNN logo on his face.
When Trump was a presidential candidate, Slate compiled a list of 20 violent outbreaks at his rallies, which included 14 incidents of Trump supporters attacking peaceful protesters and minorities.
There’s even an on-going lawsuit accusing Trump himself of inciting violence at rallies, which a district judge allowed to proceed in April, according to CNN.
In the midst of this, violence should be excluded from our politics, on both sides of the aisle.
Encouraging gun ownership should be to protect one’s physical safety, not to preserve one’s ideological comfort.
We should be encouraging discussion, respect, and unity among Americans.
In these ways, the NRA ad is antithetical to peace, both literally and socially.