Can comedy defeat the NRA?

19 March 2015
Published in Blog

By Dean Obeidallah

March 19, 2015

The NRA has battled and beaten numerous adversaries that sought to enact laws they believed could save the lives of Americans from gun violence. But there’s a new weapon in this fight against the NRA that just may make a difference: Comedy.

So what is the new comedic approach that hopes to reduce the 32 Americans killed every day by gun violence in our country? Well, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has teamed up with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Funny or Die (FOD) to make a video that calls out, in a funny and informative way, the States that make it easy for criminals to buy, carry and traffic guns. (You can watch video HERE.)

The video, released on Thursday, features a male and female couple in a parody of a commercial for Tripadvisor.com. But instead of a website offering reviews on the best restaurants or cheap places to get drunk, these two “criminals” are doing a commercial for the new website, Crimadvisor.com. This satirical “travel website” is designed to help criminals pick the “best” vacation spots based on how lax the gun laws are in each state.

The modern day Bonnie and Clyde-esque couple share with us how thrilled they are to vacation in Arizona, the state with the weakest gun safety laws. “I can see the beautiful Grand Canyon and carry a loaded gun without even having a background check,” the guy excitedly tells us.   To which his female counterparts responds: “You would fail that background check.” “I’m sure of it!” laughingly exclaims the guy.

By the end of this one minute and forty-four second video, you have learned in an entertaining way about the states that are truly a criminals dream to visit because of anemic gun safety laws, such as Nevada, Florida and Louisiana.

We also find out about states that don’t “get us criminals” because their laws make it more challenging for dangerous people to legally purchase firearms. We are talking states like New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California. To which the male criminal declares: “I want to shoot California so bad!”

The question, of course, is can this video actually have a meaningful impact? Yes, I know some (mostly on the right) will roll their eyes to the notion that comedy can impact public policy. These people simply don’t grasp the potential power of political comedy.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign explained to me via email that, “sometimes, humor can get people to pay attention to a tough issue and look at it differently.” Adding, if this new comedy video “makes people tune in and engage, then it can definitely help.”

I couldn’t agree more with Gross. Comedy can reach people who would never listen to a speech or a serious presentation about a political issue. For example, the Brady campaign released a short video in October 2014 which explained in a typically serious manner about how alarmingly one percent of the gun dealers sell the guns used in nearly 60 percent of the gun related crimes in the United States.

Want to guess how many views this video has attracted in six months? A little over 500.

In contrast, the Brady campaign’s new comedic video that has only been up since Thursday has nearly 90,000 views -and the word is just getting out about it. And, just as importantly, this video will likely reach younger people, many of whom aren't rigidly set in their views on gun safety laws.

If you doubt that a short comedic video can move people, you don’t need to look any further for proof that when President Obama appeared on the FOD online show, “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis last spring in the weeks before the deadline to sign up for Obamacare. That video was seen by millions, resulted in a 40 percent jump in visits to the healthcare.gov. and yielded a bump in sign ups by younger people.

Look, this video alone won’t defeat the powerful NRA and change gun laws. But it is informing people about the facts surrounding gun violence and could contribute to not only changing public opinion, it may very well inspire more people to become an activists on the issue. And to be honest, anything that might reduce the 1300 Americans who are the victims of gun related crimes each day or the 32 Americans killed daily in our country by gun violence is worth a shot because the status quo is failing us all.

 

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Dean Obeidallah is the Editor of The Dean's Report, host of SiriusXM radio's "The Dean Obeidallah Show" and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter.

 

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