Commentary: Limiting commercial speech would be way to fight gun manufacturers | Albany Times Union

In a recent article, “Gun sellers’ message to Americans: Man up,” the New York Times wrote, “Gun companies have spent the last two decades scrutinizing their market and refocusing their message….The sales pitch — rooted in self-defense, machismo and an overarching sense of fear — has been remarkably successful.” That’s correct, but legislatures might have an opportunity to reduce or even eliminate such tactics, which as the article put it, “woo millions of men who liked to buy gear that made them feel like soldiers and the police.”

The $73 million settlement between the parents of the children slain in Sandy Hook on Dec. 14, 2012, and the now-bankrupt Remington Arms might provide a blueprint. The Sandy Hook parents did not sue based on Second Amendment principles; they relied on the First Amendment to support their claims.

The Sandy Hook parents were able to sue Remington using the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, which prohibits advertisements that “promote or encourage violent, criminal behavior.” If state consumer protection acts provide an avenue to punish unethical, immoral and unscrupulous marketing tactics by gun manufacturers then Congress can craft legislation to ban such tactics…Read More


Lynn Greenky is an Associate Teaching Professor at Syracuse University in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies. She teaches a beloved undergraduate course about the First Amendment. She is the author of When Freedom Speaks: The Boundaries and Boundlessness of the First Amendment. You can follow her on Instagram @LynnGreenky.

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