A 30-second advertisement may not sound like much of a game-changer, but the National Basketball Association deserves praise for taking on guns in its new public service campaign.
In a bold move for a mass-market brand, the NBA, in partnership with director Spike Lee and Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety, chose Christmas Day to launch an initiative that it says is designed simply to “raise awareness.”
But the image of star NBA players and regular people sharing their personal experiences with gun violence is intrinsically a powerful argument for better gun control.
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors notes that he has a child the same age as a 3-year-old gunshot victim whose death recently came to his attention. Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers remembers his mother warning him to be careful, that “a bullet doesn’t have a name on it.”
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Such observations, juxtaposed with, for example, the experience of a forever-traumatized survivor of the Aurora, Colo., theater shootings, send a subtle but powerful message: Guns hurt people, and cool people are disgusted with that.
In the calcified realm that is gun policy, that’s a departure. It may also be the one argument that unlocks a few of the many closed minds on firearms. At this point, the insecurities of gun rights advocates – and the financial stake of gun manufacturers – are so entrenched that no amount of argument or collateral damage ever will sway them.
And the talking points on both sides are by now dishearteningly familiar.
The NBA ads send a subtle but interesting message: Guns hurt people, and cool people are disgusted with that.
“There are enough guns in circulation to arm every man, woman and child in the country.” “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” “This country leads the world in gun deaths.” “What if a rapist broke into your house?” “What if it were your child in that school shooting?” “What about the 2nd Amendment?”
We talk past each other, at each other. Meanwhile, gun manufacturers make bank and the death toll rises. President Barack Obama congratulated the NBA. Fox News and right-wing talk radio complained that the league had gotten “political” and had been a holiday buzzkill.
But the majority of Americans don’t own guns, and polls show they’re tired of being held hostage by this issue. That’s as true in Sacramento as it is anywhere; to that end, we’d like to see the Sacramento Kings add their important voice to this effort.
Here as elsewhere, the right to carry a gun shouldn’t endanger the right of everyone else not to be shot when they go to the movies, or walk into a classroom, or shoot hoops in their neighborhood.
The one approach that hasn’t been tried is perhaps the most obvious: Pointing out that a lot of people Americans admire, people such as Joakim Noah and Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James and many others, are repelled by the notion of guns as a socially acceptable solution to conflict. That guns aren’t cool. That guns are too attractive to those who feel weak. That guns, in other words, too often are a refuge for losers. Maybe it’ll make a difference if some winners come out and say so.