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GUNS CHANGE THE STORY: New Research-Backed Social Media Campaign to Change Gun Culture Launches in Select Cities

Project Unloaded’s Second Campaign Reaches Teens in Communities Disproportionately Impacted by Gun Violence with Facts on Why More Guns Make Them Less Safe

New Research Shows Urban Multicultural Teens Know Little About the Risks of Having Guns But are Open to Learning More

CHICAGO – Teens in Chicago and Sacramento will learn about the risks of carrying and using guns  through a social media campaign launching today from the Gen Z-focused gun violence prevention group Project Unloaded. The development of the campaign, called Guns Change the Story, followed an extensive research process summarized in a new report titled, Stay Inside. The research, conducted by multicultural market research firm Ahzul, highlights the nuanced views about gun use and gun violence of Black and Latino urban teens.

“Adults often look at young Black and Latino people like we’re the problem, but in reality, we are the solution,” said Edgar Vilchez, a Project Unloaded Youth Council member from Chicago. “With the Guns Change the Story campaign, Project Unloaded is delivering the facts young people need to make an informed decision about whether or not to get a gun. I’m excited for my peers to start seeing this campaign in their social media feeds and considering how using guns could impact their lives for the worse.” 

Guns Change the Story features videos of real teens accompanied by eye-catching MadLibs that challenge young people to recognize how the presence of a gun can change the tone and risk profile of everyday moments. This new digital campaign was designed by the Black-led advertising agency Cartwright. It was built based on new research and followed a summer partnership with Chicago Public Schools in which teens developed ideas for marketing campaigns like this one. The winning idea from that summer program is featured on the Guns Change the Story campaign website.

“We went into this partnership with Project Unloaded fully understanding the stakes of this work and the difficult job ahead,” said Keith Cartwright, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Cartwright. “Teens want to learn more about gun risks, but aren’t interested in more adults telling them what to do. With Guns Change the Story, we ask teens to imagine common scenarios from their lives and come to their own conclusion about how the presence of a gun could change the story of their life. Through MadLibs and artistic, relevant films, we hope to capture teens’ attention and inspire them to build a safer future.” 

Grounding the campaign is a new set of research findings that demonstrate both how gun violence impacts multicultural teens from urban areas disproportionately impacted by gun violence, as well as the potential for campaigns like Guns Change the Story to impact young people’s decisions around gun use. Key findings from the research include: 

  • Nearly half of multicultural urban teens believe that a gun would make them safer, but after exposing those teens to facts about gun risks, 18% of them moved away from that myth.
  • 88% of teens surveyed said they’d done little to no research on the risks that come with getting a gun.
  • Teens in neighborhoods with the highest rates of gun violence spend nearly all their time indoors at the encouragement of their parents.
  • Black teens are most likely to feel unsafe in school, and feeling safe in school is important to deciding against gun ownership — teens who said school wasn’t safe for them were far more likely to also express interest in getting a gun.

“While the impact of gun violence is felt almost everywhere, it is not felt equally,” said Nina Vinik, Founder and Executive Director of Project Unloaded. “Through the Guns Change the Story campaign, Project Unloaded will reach teens deeply affected by gun violence with the facts they need to change the narrative on guns where they live. Armed with data, young people can inspire a life-saving generational shift when it comes to using guns.” 

Guns Change the Story is Project Unloaded’s second digital campaign reaching young people via social media. Its first campaign, SNUG (Safer Not Using Guns), is designed for teens with less direct experience with gun violence. It has engaged more than 3 million teens through social media ads in the last two years and millions more via partnerships with Gen Z and Millennial TikTok content creators. More information on Project Unloaded’s campaigns is available here


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