With gun control stalled, Blumenthal targets firearms advertising

As mass shootings grow and Congress remains divided on new gun restrictions, Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Tuesday proposed a new approach – targeting firearms advertising. But a national gun rights group called it a “misguided witch hunt.”
The Responsible Firearms Marketing Act would require the Federal Trade Commission to study gun makers’ marketing practices. Violations of existing unfair trade rules could mean tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
Blumenthal pointed to one ad for the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle.
“’Consider Your Man Card Re-Issued,’” he said. “All of these companies that sell military-style assault weapons appeal to that sense of manhood – or lack of it.”
The legal tactic worked for nine Sandy Hook families.
Firearms manufacturers enjoy broad immunity from lawsuits, but the families were allowed to sue Remington Arms under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. They reached a $73 million settlement last year.
“We wanted to know just how pervasive the advertisements from these gun manufactures went, and the things we found were horrific,” said Matthew Soto, whose sister was murdered at the school, after the settlement was reached.
The lawsuit opened the door to future litigation. But even more importantly, it opened the door on the gun industry’s marketing strategies. As part of the settlement, Remington agreed to make thousands of pages of internal documents public.
Just a few miles from Sandy Hook sits the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which calls the legislation a “misguided witch hunt.”
“It's not false; it's not deceptive,” said NSSF senior vice president Larry Keane. “It doesn't encourage anybody to commit violence or to commit a crime.”
Keane argued that weak enforcement of existing gun laws is to blame.
“Advertising for the industry is severely restricted,” he said. “The notion that somehow the industry's advertising is encouraging people to commit criminal acts is patently false. It's offensive.”
Blumenthal made the announcement at the New Haven Botanical Garden of Healing, which memorializes dozens of people killed by gun violence.
Thomas Daniels’ son is one of them. He was shot to death in 2009, just one semester into college.
“This is a sad trip down memory lane, always,” Daniels said. “He struggled for his life, fighting for the gun. And eventually, he got shot.”
Daniels supports the legislation.
“It's a multimillion-dollar business – probably a billion-dollar business,” he said. “They're not into preventing gun violence. They're into making money.”
Blumenthal is optimistic about the bill, but it has slim chance of passing in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.