Watch What Happens When Gun Buyers Learn the Horrifying History of a Firearm

A pop-up weapon shop in New York City gives shoppers looking for safety some real talk on violence.
Mar 17, 2015·
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

The last thing you’d probably expect to see while strolling through Manhattan’s fashion boutique–heavy Lower East Side is a store selling firearms. However, some Gotham residents walking through the neighborhood recently discovered a small shop promising to help first-time gun buyers pick the perfect weapon. When those safety-seeking folks went inside to learn which gun would be the best for them, they found out a little more than they’d bargained for.

That’s because the gun store featured in the above PSA isn’t real. It was been set up by States United to Prevent Gun Violence, a national nonprofit that works to make communities safer, as part of its “Guns With History” campaign. Hidden cameras roll as the store’s pretend salesperson tells shoppers about the caliber or popularity of a particular firearm and relays the sad histories of the weapons on display.

The shoppers are shocked and horrified to learn the violent past—including accidental shootings and the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre—of guns of the same make and model as the one they were considering buying. Each gun’s tag includes where the model of gun was used, the date, the name of the shooter, the number of people who died, and the number of individuals who were wounded, debunking the myth that having a gun keeps owners and their families safe.

“It made me think twice, and I will not buy one,” said one person who’d originally planned to buy a gun.

Indeed, after being educated about what can happen when you own a gun, “none of the participants expressed interest in buying from the store,” wrote Julia Wyman, executive director of SUPGV, in an email. “Almost all commented that their minds were changed and that they would not want to own a gun,” she added.

Dozens of gun-rights advocates have been heading to the organization’s Facebook page to voice their displeasure with the PSA.

“Whether you’re a 28-year-old man or an 82-year-old grandmother, a gun when properly used evens the playing field. As a man who keeps guns at home for protection and who conceal carries in public to protect myself and my family, this stunt you all pulled is despicable,” commented Jarvis Cardwell. “You’re essentially grouping myself and every other responsible, law-abiding, gun-owning citizens with murderers and irresponsible gun-owners.”

“What next, a fake motorcycle store? Those are pretty darned dangerous too. How about a car dealership ridiculing people who buy small cars, because they’re less safe, or would you liberals ridicule them for buying big cars, due to global cooling, or warming, or climate change, whatever it is today?” commented Facebook user Michael Craig.

Wyman isn’t cowed by the criticism. “Of course gun enthusiasts are going to object to anything that debunks their propaganda,” she wrote. “They set forth claims about ‘guns keeping you safe’ all the time. Why don’t we have the right to put out a PSA that gives a different view?” To that end, she believes it’s critical that the public knows that although most people believe owning a gun makes you safer, most studies show the opposite is true.

Wyman says the one thing she’d like people to do is to “think twice before they [consider] owning a gun.” But if you're still unsure about whether owning a gun is right for you, the “Guns With History” website has a quiz to help you decide.