Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy are among a group of twelve senators in calling on the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation and consider regulation of what they call the unfair and deceptive advertising practices used by the firearms industry.
In a letter to FTC Chair Khan, the senators highlighted the firearms industry’s efforts to mislead consumers about the safety of guns and the employment of advertising tactics that target children and teenagers – including using video games, popular musicians and television shows, and even Santa Claus to market its deadly products.
The gun industry’s advertising and marketing practices have received increased attention following the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where the mass shooter used an assault rifle manufactured by Daniel Defense. Daniel Defense’s marketing materials highlight the company’s military contracts and reference popular first-person shooter video games to target children and teenagers.
Earlier this year, the families of nine victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School secured a settlement of their claims against Remington Arms based on the company’s advertising practices. The senators wrote in their letter that these companies are far from outliers in the firearms industry.
The FTC has previously investigated and taken strong action against other industries for similar false and misleading safety-related claims, particularly when such claims target and endanger children. They say the tobacco and e-cigarette industries are perhaps the best example. They say the same should be done with respect to the firearms industry and the unsubstantiated claims it has made—and continues to make—in its advertisements.
The first petition calling for the FTC to investigate the firearms industry was filed in 1996 —more than 25 years ago—and numerous petitions have been filed in the intervening years.
Data from the CDC shows that gun deaths in 2020 in the United States reached the highest level ever recorded—45-thousand. In 2020, firearms were also, for the first time, the leading cause of death among children and teenagers—a 29-percent increase from 2019. Firearms are now among the leading causes of death nationwide, as more than 120 Americans are killed each day with a gun.