Prominent gun-control groups are coming after gun ads.
The Firearms Accountability Counsel Taskforce (FACT), a coalition of lawyers representing the interests of some of the largest gun-control organizations in the country, petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Thursday. They want the agency to crack down on “unfair, deceptive, and illegal advertising practices” by the firearms industry. The group claims promoting guns for home protection should be illegal.
“This petition demands that the FTC exercise its broad investigative and enforcement powers to investigate and regulate the gun industry’s advertising practices,” the petition reads. “The FTC’s inaction has allowed the gun industry to spend decades using unfair and deceptive advertising to sell deadly weapons to an American public that has been falsely led to believe that gun ownership is a safe way to protect their home and family.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry’s trade group, denounced the efforts of the petitioners as a violation of the gun industry’s free speech rights.
“Gun control elements are attempting to influence the Biden administration to abuse the authority of the FTC to not just infringe on the Second Amendment rights of Americans, but also their First Amendment rights,” Mark Oliva, Director of Public Affairs for the NSSF, told The Reload. “It should be stunning to Americans that gun control groups aren’t satisfied with eliminating one Constitutionally-protected right that they are now targeting another.”
The petition is just the latest in a series of coordinated efforts by gun control activists to pressure President Joe Biden into making gun-control policy a larger priority of his presidency. Since February, gun-control groups have become increasingly vocal in their criticism of the President’s approach on gun policy thus far.
They have focused on pushing for ways the President could act unilaterally, including by urging the creation of a new executive cabinet position dedicated to gun violence. Attempting to pressure the FTC, an agency not typically associated with gun policy, seems to be an extension of that strategy.
The petitioners claimed that common advertising strategies by gun manufacturers emphasizing the self-defense capabilities of their firearms are misleading and amount to false advertising. They suggested that represents a violation of federal consumer protection law and could be legally actionable.
The petition cited past efforts by the FTC to crack down on tobacco advertising as a possible template for the agency to follow when regulating firearms advertising.
According to the group’s website, the FACT coalition is a joint venture by the groups Giffords Law Center, Brady, and March for Our Lives.
“For too long the gun industry has relied on a false message to sell its products: that buying a gun will make you and your family safer,” David Pucino, Deputy Chief Counsel of Giffords Law Center, said in a statement. “Extensive empirical research shows that the opposite is true: for most people, bringing a gun into the home makes everyone in the home less safe.”
Oliva said the tactic of using the FTC to target the gun industry is a retread.
“This play is hardly new,” he said. “This was an idea floated by former Attorney General Holder back in 1995 when he said gun control elements in this country needed ‘brainwash’ people to stigmatize lawful firearm ownership. This is a play from that same playbook.”
Coalition member Brady unsuccessfully pushed for the FTC to crack down on the gun industry during the Clinton Administration.
“In the almost 30 years since Brady first called on the FTC to investigate the gun industry’s false and misleading advertising, the gun industry has doubled down on its Big Lie that guns in the home enhance safety, has targeted young people with to attract them to military-style assault rifles,” Jonathan Lowy, Brady’s Chief Counsel, said. “The FTC has a duty to review these tactics and act swiftly to stop them and keep Americans safe.”
FTC officials did not respond to a request for comment.