Earlier this year, the National Rifle Association released a recruitment video that painted a grim picture of life in the United States. Its stark imagery — coupled with Second Amendment advocate Dana Loesch’s severe language and scowl — left many critics with the impression that the video was designed to provoke fear, if not incite violence.
Now, Everytown for Gun Safety — a gun-control group backed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg — has released its rebuttal, a 30-second ad that punches back without actually throwing a punch.
Instead, the new ad opts for a warm, softly lighted B-roll of families and smiling civil servants as an upbeat narrator calls for “a break from the politics of fear.”
“Let’s celebrate the values that make our country strong and bond all of us as Americans,” the ad states amid a slow-motion montage of families spending time together. “Be thankful for the freedoms we have — for family, for the bravery of those on the front lines.”
“We know America is great, and we know there is a lot most Americans can agree on, including sensible gun-safety laws that help protect our freedom and those we love,” the narrator adds.
Everytown spokesman Andrew Zucker said the NRA’s recent video describes the United States in frightening terms and “blatantly traffics” in fear of the other and political division.
The gun-control advocacy organization, he said, decided to take a different tack.
“The gun lobby’s ad described a dystopian view of who we are as a country, which isn’t reflective of who we are as Americans or the values that we share,” Zucker told The Washington Post.
He added that Everytown “deliberately took a very different tone than the NRA.”
Everytown plans to disseminate its new video on social media and online, particularly, Zucker said, by targeting Virginia — “in the NRA’s back yard.”
Loesch said Monday that the NRA video is actually a condemnation of violence. She accused Everytown, the nation’s highest-profile gun-control advocacy group, of being on the same side of the debate as people who have threatened her and others who share her views on gun rights.
After watching Everytown’s new video on Monday, Loesch wrote in an email to The Post: “I wish these groups would have said this to their supporters who made videos of me killing myself and sent threatening mail to my home and to the homes of Second Amendment supporting families.”
Of the NRA video in which she stars, Loesch wrote: “I condemned violence and called for the police to be allowed to do their jobs in this ad (they weren’t in Baltimore, for example). Only people with a predilection for violence would mistake a condemnation of violence as a ‘call to violence.’”
She added: “I urge such individuals to be peaceful this holiday weekend. There are better ways to sort differences than by burning buildings and assaulting innocent people.”
That tonal difference between the two ads is apparent within the first few seconds of watching them.
If the new Everytown ad channels Obama’s optimism, the NRA ad is more aligned with Donald Trump’s “American carnage” inauguration speech — uncompromising, outraged and gloomy.
The ad begins with Loesch’s voice painting a dire picture of the U.S. political climate and culture.
“They use their media to assassinate real news,” Loesch says scornfully. “They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again.”
The video is just over a minute long, but it has generated more than 6 million views, thousands of comments and shares — and lots of controversy.
“Jeeeeesus … it almost looks like you’re encouraging violence against demonstrators,” another person wrote. “Just let the police do their jobs when or if protests get out of hand.”
Critics released a petition calling for Facebook to remove the video, which the petition refers to as “inflammatory.”
“All we have to do is look at the increase in violence since the election to see how unchecked violent rhetoric has real life consequences,” the petition states. “Letting this disturbing video stay on Facebook would be extremely irresponsible and could very well lead to disastrous repercussions.”
“The video tries to create an ‘us-vs-them’ narrative and pit Americans against one another,” the petition adds. “It paints liberals as liars and as violent, unruly protesters who law-abiding gun owners need protection from.”
In the ad, Loesch accuses “their” ex-president of endorsing “the resistance,” a movement of demonstrators who “smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports — bully and terrorize the law-abiding.”
“The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country, and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with a clenched fist of truth,” Loesch concludes. “I’m the National Rifle Association of America, and I’m freedom’s safest place.”
In a statement released Monday, John Feinblatt, president of Everytown, called the NRA’s ad “un-American.”
“The gun lobby loves to talk about freedom, but then they shamefully traffic in fear and violence in order to advance their dangerous ‘more guns for anyone, anywhere’ political agenda,” the statement said. The NRA video, Feinblatt said, “isn’t reflective of who we are as citizens or what our country stands for. … As the gun lobby seeks to divide our country through fear and division, we will come together and work together to make our communities stronger and safer for everyone.”