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The Guardian/The Trace: Friends Don’t Let Friends Buy Guns

Public health messaging once convinced young people to buckle up and stop smoking. In the TikTok era, a new set of activists is clarifying the dangers posed by firearms.


Once upon a time in America, people rolled their eyes at seatbelts, four out of ten high school students smoked cigarettes, and campers left their fires smoldering through the night. Then we changed. Not primarily because of policy reforms, but because teams of marketers crafted public health messaging campaigns in which chatty crash test dummies told us to buckle up, teens piled 1,200 body bags in front of the Philip Morris headquarters, and Smokey Bear identified who, precisely, can prevent forest fires.

Recently, big players in gun violence prevention have begun asking whether this tradition of transforming America through advertising might be used to reform our relationship to guns, too.

The most ambitious effort to change Americans’ relationship to guns is being led by a nonprofit founded two years ago, called Project Unloaded. Rather than trying to improve how existing gun owners handle their weapons, or curry public support for a specific policy, Project Unloaded is using marketing to attack the problem at the heart of gun violence: Too many households own guns, and more access to guns leads to more deaths and injuries

A single statistic led to the organization’s founding: In 2014 a Gallup poll found that the portion of Americans who believe that having a gun in the house makes it a safer place had jumped from 35 percent to 63 percent in only 15 years.

Read the full story via The Trace: https://www.thetrace.org/2024/04/project-unloaded-psa-gen-z-gun-safety/

Read the abbreviated version via The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2024/apr/04/can-tiktoks-reduce-gun-violence-ask-these-teenagers

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