By Dennis Sean O’Brien
WASHINGTON – A leading gun control group petitioned the Federal Trade Commission Wednesday to ban all gun advertising that claims handguns make homes safer, alleging the ads are false.
The Center to Prevent Handgun Violence and five medical groups asked the FTC to ban the ads, saying they are deceptive and unfair. Spokesmen said that although the ads claim a gun makes a home safer, studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggest otherwise.
“Guns brought into the home to protect the family actually endanger the family. And yet, through its advertising, the gun industry continues to propagate the lethal lie that guns in the home make us safe,” said Dennis Henigan, director of the Legal Action Project at the center.
The National Rifle Association disagreed and protested an FTC associate director’s presence at the center’s news conference.
“We are accustomed to the outrageous claims of the gun ban movement but government participation in what amounts to a gun ban ceremony is an outrage. It undermines good government, undercuts the First Amendment and insults every taxpayer in America who paid for this circus,” Tanya Metaksa, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a written statement.
C. Lee Peeler, associate director for advertising practices in the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said the commission takes all complaints of deceptive advertising seriously and would look into the matter.
The center’s petition singles out several ads to make its point. Two magazine ads were from the Beretta U.S.A. Corp., which employs more than 450 people in its Accokeek headquarters in southern Prince George’s County and in its plant in Pocomoke City on the Eastern Shore.
One Beretta ad shows a .380-caliber handgun over a headline that reads, “Homeowner’s Insurance.” The other, for a different model .380-caliber, reads, “Tip the odds in your favor.”
The gun control groups said the ads were deceptive because they “mislead” consumers into thinking they will be safer if they own a gun, and unfair because guns could cause substantial, overwhelming and sometimes unavoidable injuries.
Two studies presented as evidence by the group claimed, among other things, that homes with handguns in them were 2.7 times more likely to have a resident killed and 4.8 times more likely to have a resident commit suicide than in a home without guns.
NRA spokesman Chip Walker said the gun control camp’s assertion that guns in the home do more harm than good is false. The NRA represents gun owners, not manufacturers.
Walker said studies that gun control supporters often cite are incomplete. In studies measuring the number of people killed by their own households’ guns versus effective uses of guns in self-defense, gun control supporters only count as self-defense uses the times an intruder is killed. They do not include the times when he or she is scared off or injured.
“If you use their logic,” Walker said, “then burglar alarms would do no good because no one gets killed.”
A gun-manufacturing industry spokesman agreed with the NRA that the results of those studies are skewed. “They’re using voodoo statistics from debunked research,” said Jack Adkins, of the Atlanta-based American Shooting Sports Council.
“They’re obviously frustrated. They’ve lost their powerhold in the U.S. Congress and are seeking another way to attack the firearms industry, which is just another legitimate American business,” he said. Beretta’s spokesman was out of town and could not be reached for comment. -30-