WTF, NRA? A New Pro-Gun Ad References The Safety Of The President's Kids, And It's Really Not OK

You know that expression: when you find you're standing in a hole, it's a good idea to stop digging? This is pertinent advice for the National Rifle Association at the moment.
Publish date:
January 17, 2013
parenting, politics, badvertising, gun control

In its latest effort to seem conscious and relevant in the current climate around gun control and its potential effects in limiting the senseless murder of children and basically anyone, the National Rifle Association has launched a bizarre new commercial which attempts to make the case that because the President’s kids get armed guards at school, Obama thinks his daughters are more important than your silly non-Presidential offspring.

The NRA’s reactions to the mass murder at Sandy Hook so far have been impressively tone deaf. Its post-massacre press conference singled out, among other things, cutting-edge modern video games like 1992’s Mortal Kombat, and the lack of gun-toting teachers, as the REAL culprits behind these tragically deadly shooting sprees taking place in heretofore safe places like schools and shopping malls -- even going so far as to victim-blame the Sandy Hook principal for her own death, suggesting that if only she was carrying a gun of her own, she certainly would have lived.

Then, on Monday -- literally on the one month anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting -- in a move that would have been hilarious if it weren’t UTTERLY TERRIBLE, after pointedly blaming violent games for the Newtown murders in the aforementioned press conference, the NRA released a mobile game that simulates a shooting range. In which players can fire assault rifles at targets. The recommended age limit for this game? 4 and up. (The Apple App Store has since amended the recommended age limit to 12 and up, which, I guess, good for the App Store.)

So perhaps this most recent ad is just the latest in a series of bad ideas in which the NRA curiously sabotages its own relevancy -- but it’s still a very bad idea. The ad intones ominously at the start, “Are the President’s kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools, when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?”

Just to be clear about this, the “armed guards” in question are Secret Service personnel, whose specific law enforcement purview is the protection of current and former Presidents, their families, Presidential candidates during an election year, and visiting world leaders. The reason for this special protection is not because President Obama’s kids are somehow more valuable than anyone else’s kids, but the fact that simply by virtue of being the offspring of the President, these kids are -- horrifying as it is to admit -- a possible target for anyone seeking to effect political violence on the President.

In other words, the President’s kids are way more likely than your average kids to have someone actively trying to kill them -- and specifically them -- as a political statement. This is a little different from children who are randomly targeted in a mass murder like Sandy Hook, although both concepts are equally despicable and indefensible. The truth is the Presidential offspring are at greater risk, as is the President himself, and his wife, from possible violence, by virtue of being (or being related to) the President. THUS, they get special armed guards, yeah.

The ad goes on to namecheck Obama’s evil plans to require people with ridiculous amounts of money to pay more taxes, and calls him an “elitist hypocrite” who opposes a “fair share of security” for everyone else. It closes with a barb about gun-free school zones as though not having guns in places where there are lots of kids is somehow a really dangerous idea, and our little 30-second trip to Bizarro World is complete.

It would seem the intention of this ad is to inspire parents to think carefully about the NRA's assertion that the solution to school shootings is more guns in schools, but I'm not sure it succeeds in that. The criticism of the ad has focused overwhelmingly on the fact that it brings Obama’s daughters into the mix -- and in light of recent events, this is indeed a pretty poor choice of angles. White House spokesman Jay Carney called the ad “repugnant and cowardly” for using the President’s kids as “pawns in a political fight.”

The NRA -- who really maybe should consider a new PR team -- subsequently responded to the criticism:

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told the Post earlier Wednesday that the ad was not directed at Malia and Sasha Obama.

“The main aim of the ad is to make sure that we all act to keep our children safe. It’s not aimed at anyone’s child in particular,” he said. “Anyone who claims otherwise is intentionally trying to change the topic or missing the point completely.”

Except it explicitly does mention the President’s kids? Like it says, “THE PRESIDENT’S KIDS,” in so many words? In both voiceover and in the text shown onscreen? Maybe this spokesman hasn’t actually SEEN the ad. I guess that’s possible.

All of this went down hours before President Obama unveiled what is arguably the most expansive gun control legislation yet seen in the US, which would, among other things, require universal background checks for everyone who purchases a gun, close gun show loopholes, and create a new federal law regarding gun trafficking across state lines, as well as banning all civilian use of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines such as those used by Adam Lanza in Sandy Hook.

Of course, these are all grand sweeping reforms, but most will have to run the gauntlet of Congress -- where the NRA is considered one of the most influential lobbying groups -- before being enacted, which may spell doom for these efforts before they even begin.

That said, this series of gaffes has taken its toll on public opinion of the NRA, which in a recent national poll following the ill-fated press conference had lost ten points in its favorability rating, meaning the majority of Americans now think negatively of the organization. The above ad demonstrates the problem, that there are few lengths to which the NRA will not go in order to make a point; apparently, even the kids of the President are fair game in the battle ensure the rights of civilians to own weapons exclusively designed to murder human beings in large numbers.

But what’s your take? Do you think this ad goes too far? Are Obama’s kids always off the table in political battles? Or is this ad an effective and thought-provoking effort at making parents reconsider their assumptions about the safety of more guns in schools? Let’s hear it in comments.