Gun Nuts Ready To Shoot Their TV Sets Over NFL's Rejection of Assault Rifle Ad

Human Rights

A year after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, America’s gun nuts are in a major tizzy over what may be the biggest and most unlikely victory for sane firearms policy in 2013: the National Football League’s rejection of an assault rifle TV ad in the upcoming Super Bowl. 

“There was a time when a black man couldn’t kiss a white woman on TV. That day has passed,” wrote Robert Farago on his TruthAboutGuns blog about the NFL's decision to ban the ad from Georgia gunmaker Daniel Defense. “Yet a firearms company can’t advertise its products on network TV. It’s high time that ballistic barrier was broken.”

Farago’s twisted sense of history was hardly alone in pro-gun circles. “What a bunch of hypocrites! The 2nd Amendment is ultimately what allows the NFL to even exist,” wrote TreeManTwo on the website of Guns & Ammo magazine, which broke the story last Friday that the NFL rejected the ad for violating its advertising policy. “It does have to do with us being able to keep and protect our rights to do things like play football.”

The 60-second ad is not exactly the most gripping Super Bowl commercial. It follows a cleancut young white man driving home, where we learn that he is a recently returned vet and a new father who is worried about his wife and baby. He’s “responsible for their protection,” the voiceover says, adding that, “no has the right to tell me how to defend them,” and that he’s chosen “the most effective tool for the job.” The ad doesn’t show a real gun, but ends with the company’s logo: a drawing of a military-style assault rifle. 

According to Guns & Ammo, the gun maker bought local TV advertising time during the 2012 Super Bowl from NBC. This time around the NFL barred Fox, the network nationally airing the Super Bowl, from running the ad. When the gun maker offered to replace its logo with an American flag, the NFL rejected that too. The League’s policy has an exception for stores that sell firearms and other wares, but apparently Daniel Defense’s weapons and apparel stores didn’t clear that threshold, said UCLA law professor and gun historian Adam Winkler.

“Conservatives like Michelle Malkin were quick to point out—not incorrectly—a certain hypocrisy behind the NFL’s policy and how they apply it,” Winkler wrote in a New Republic piece. “Though the policy prohibits firearms and ads that promote movies and video games that are 'excessively violent,' the League has approved ads in which characters get 'electrocuted, run over by buses, kicked, punched, tackled, thrown out of high-rise buildings, and attacked by crotch-biting dogs,' according to Malkin. The NFL’s policy also prohibits ads for movies and video games with 'overtly sexual material'—even though that condition seems to be met by at least half the Super Bowl’s ads.”

The contradictions about arguably one of America's most violent team sports drawing a line against a bland but provocative TV ad are almost endless. Even comments on the Guns & Ammo website didn’t know where to begin with the NFL’s morals. “NFL—won’t show this ad, but you have made me have a talk to my 8 year old daughter about what an erection is and why you might need a doctor if it is lasting for more then 4 hours,” wrote Mad Dad.

Winkler noted “this isn’t the first time the NFL and its broadcast partners ran afoul of gun advocates.” In 2012, “they were furious when sports commentator Bob Costas, during halftime of a Sunday Night Football game, blamed the ‘gun culture’ after Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend before taking his own life. Challenging the very essence of gun rights ideology, Costas had the audacity to say that ‘handguns don’t save lives.’” 

A year before, Winkler said that pro-gun forces accused the NFL of “being behind ESPN’s firing of Hank Williams Jr., who sang the rousing theme on Monday Night Football. William’s offense: On an episode of ‘Fox & Friends,’ he compared Obama to Hilter.”

There’s even more fodder for paranoid gun nuts that the NFL will not be intimidated by the gun lobby's threats. In 2011, Wisconsin loosened state law to let people with gun permits carry concealed weapons in public. The gun lobby failed to pressure the Green Bay Packers into letting people bring concealed guns into Lambeau Field. “What could be safer, they ask, than a stadium full of lawful gun owners?” Winkler wrote. “You know, more guns, less crime.”

Right-wing blowhards such as Alex Jones have proclaimed that the NFL’s decision was “anti-liberty,” “anti-family” and “anti-American,” and said that the NFL was conspiring with President Obama to use the Super Bowl for propaganda as Adolph Hitler did with the 1936 Olympics, and called for Americans to boycott the NFL. That’s about as likely as for the League to get serious about preventing player’s brain injuries—when physical contact drives the NFL's more than $9 billion annual revenues.

But on the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the NFL’s refusal to air a milquetoast TV ad about an anxious father wanting a military-style assault rifle might become one of the biggest gun control victories of the year. And that’s pretty shocking. 

The National Rifle Association and its allies stopped new federal gun control laws, which were supported by 90 percent of the American public and by President Obama last spring. The gun lobby pressured the last state in the country that banned people from carrying guns in public, Illinois, into weakening that law. It led a successful recall campaign against two Colorado state legislators who supported tougher gun controls.

Some blue states, notably New York, acted quickly after Sandy Hook to update gun laws. But until now, it’s been a bad year for gun control. “Yet gun advocates may finally have found an opponent they can’t beat: The National Football League,” wrote Winkler. “If there’s one thing Americans love more than their guns, it is football.”

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