Coffee House

Sandy Hook and the Super Bowl

4 February 2013

6:18 PM

4 February 2013

6:18 PM

Last night’s Super Bowl advertising gives an interesting insight into the ongoing gun debate following the Newtown shooting in December. Super Bowl adverts have become a phenomenon in their own right, generating as much interest and discussion as the game itself – with a 30-second slot during yesterday’s game costing up to $4 million. At that price most advertising slots are only bought by large multinationals.

Yet, a campaign group called ‘Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ took the opportunity to make the case for tightening background checks on gun owners. The advert can be seen here:


Adverts with a political dimension are usually rejected during the Super Bowl, although an anti-abortion advert sponsored by the Christian charity ‘Focus on the Family’ was aired during the 2010 final.

Yesterday’s advert was sharply pointed at the political classes. Only broadcast in Washington DC, it avoided most of the thorny issues surrounding gun control, such as proposals to ban assault weapons. The specific loophole which the group is attacking allows unlicensed dealers to legally sell guns without carrying out background checks. A bill exploring the viability of extending background checks is due to be debated later this month.

The Super Bowl has come to symbolise more than just a physical contest between two teams. All the surrounding fanfare, with the hyper-production of the half-time show and Super Bowl adverts, reveal the cultural pulse of our American cousins. Consider, for example, the moral outrage which followed Janet Jackson’s so-called ‘wardrobe malfunction’. That an advert campaigning for tighter gun laws was aired last night reveals the extent to which the Sandy Hook massacre has become a watershed moment in America’s relationship with firearms.

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Show comments
  • Daniel Maris

    Another gnomic posting.

    What are we supposed to deduce from your musings? That the “wardrobe malfunction” hysteria shows America is as uptight about the female body as Saudi Arabia?

    Or that America’s gun fascination is on a par with that of Taliban-leaning Afghan tribesmen?

    I am sure some point is being made (since otherwise this article scores high on the bore-ometer). But I fear it might have escaped me.

  • ianess

    Typical Yank sentimentality. Nothing of any note can be done to halt this continuing gun violence.

  • ButcombeMan

    There are so many guns in the US now, and across the borders in neighbouring countries, that an immediate ban on sales of ALL guns would take several generations of citizens and many “hand-in amnesties” to have any real statistical effect. Possibly 100s of years.

    There are some other issues. The US is a society quietly going mad on psychoactive drugs, legal (pharmaceutical-prescribed and not prescribed) & otherwise illegal substances.

    Some States are even trying to legalise marijuana against federal laws.

    The connections between many seemingly random shootings and the shooters having used psychoactive substances, is simply astonishing.

    Most people in the US do not seem to be making the connection.

    A gun is not usually, (though accidents happen) dangerous, unless the mind that controls it is dangerous and unbalanced.

    • Span Ows

      “A gun is not usually, (though accidents happen) dangerous, unless the mind that controls it is dangerous and unbalanced.”

      This! This is exactly the problem. The current gun control hysteria is just another chapter with the only difference being that the left are being more evil and sinister than usual in their morbid use of children, some dead, to forward their plans at control.

    • Ian Walker

      Your final sentence could apply to anything though? Cars are not usually dangerous, but kill many more people than guns, often due to the effect of psychoactive drugs. It’s a poor argument in favour.

      • Span Ows

        It’s not really in favour though; it is more anti-anti.

  • HooksLaw

    The argument is about automatic weapons, fully automatic. Its hard to see the argument against banning them. The gun lobby do themselves no favours.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Apparently, you’re not familiar with “the argument”, as “fully automatic” weapons have been outlawed in the US for some time now.

    • James Strong

      Arguments against banning semi-automaics:
      Law-abiding people should not have restrictions imposed on what they can own.
      Murder is already illegal, homicide in self-defence against a threat of lethal violence is not illegal. Criminals have automatic weapons, they cannot be un-invented, criminals take no notice of bans, and decent people should not be put at a disadvantage.
      I’m not impressed by arguments in favour of allowing guns for hunting. That’s one one use for guns, but I want them for self-defence against criminals, most likely against burglars. If I shoot 60 rounds into a burglar in my house I do not think that should be a crime, and if I want to have an automatic weapon that will enable me to do that I think that’s OK.
      Also, since we have armed police I think the citizenry should be armed too.
      I am also strongly in favour of concealed carry.
      Yes, I know my views on this are somewhat out of the mainstream. This comment might attract insults and abuse and questions about my sanity, but what I would like is to see reasoned arguments against my view.

      • starfish

        unfortunately the bien pensants in this country cannot accept that the USA is a foreign country, with different cultural mores

        if i were american i would be deeply suspicious of their government’s motives

      • Brian

        Hear hear. And so what if a few of those 60 rounds make it across the street and into your neighbour’s kid that’s perfectly acceptable collateral damage – after all it’s not your fault he was standing there.

        Why not make RPGs, flame-throwers and tanks available for sale as well. After all. RPGs don’t kill people; people firing RPGs kill people.

        You don’t need reasoned arguments against your view, you just need to know that your own arguments aren’t properly reasoned.

        • Colonel Mustard

          “What if” arguments can generally be used to justify any encroachment on liberty, especially if larded with emotive appeals. The fact remains that limiting the ownership of guns by law-abiding citizens might limit those citizens from running amok and murdering with them but the availability of automatic weapons is a dimension to that and not proven as either a prevention or a cause. On the other hand limiting ownership by law or regulation will have absolutely no effect on criminals and terrorists who will continue to arm themselves – and with automatic weapons – to commit murder, often of unarmed and defenceless citizens.

          I know which of the two is a more likely event.

          • Brian

            A quick Wikipedia search reveals that the US has a gun related death rate of 10.2 per 100,000 compared with 0.25 per 100,000 in the UK. How do you explain that?

            • Colonel Mustard

              I have explained it in a post in another thread on this subject some time ago. It is a completely false comparison because the population and the number of guns in legal ownership is quite different. You have to compare gun deaths with the number of guns owned. When you do that the UK comes out as pretty appalling with 0.0012 deaths per (legally held) firearm compared to 0.0033 deaths per firearm in the USA. The gun death figures also include accident, suicide and law enforcement related killings, whether lawful or not. They do not all relate to crazies running amok with automatic weapons.

              • Brian

                It isn’t a false comparison. It shows a clear correlation between the number of guns available with which to kill people and the number of people killed by said guns. If you adjust it to eliminate the variation in number of guns owned you completely miss the point.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  That is precisely what it does not show! The populations are different sizes and the number of guns owned per 100,000 of population is different too. There are many more guns owned within a much larger population in the USA and that must be factored in. It is not eliminating any variation at all. It is comparing the number of gun related deaths against the number of guns owned per 100,000. Check the Guardian’s own published statistics on this and work it out for yourself.

                • Brian

                  It shows rate of gun related deaths per 100,000 of population, so the size of population in the two countries is adjusted for in the statistics.
                  Comparing deaths per gun is meaningless unless you think the guns wander around autonomously shooting people- it’s the number of people and the ease of access to weapons which are the two key drivers of gun related violence.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  You still don’t understand it. It is gun owning per 100,000 not number of guns per se. Some of the gun owners own more than one weapon and there are more weapons in the USA than gun owners.

                  Let me put it another way. It is gun related deaths per the percentage of each 100,000 people who own guns.

                  Your concluding statement is pure rubbish. The UK has far less people and no ease of access to weapons and yet the rate of gun related deaths is only a third of the US rate. Their population and number of gun owning citizens is very much higher than two thirds more which blows your argument out of the water.

                • Brian

                  Your argument can basically be summarised as follows: I have taken two completely different numbers, adjusted to remove the major factors which cause them to be different and behold! They’re no longer that different!
                  As for your concluding statement, you’re basing your conclusion on your own flawed analysis.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  No that is only how you summarise it. I did not start with your gun related deaths per 100,000 at all. The calculations come from the raw data published by the Guardian. Once again, it is the number of gun related deaths as a percentage to the number of gun-owning individuals. Since there is no risk from individuals who do not own guns this is a valid comparison when the number of legally owned guns in a society is being used to argue for them to be reduced. Your comparison is not because it does not take into account the number of guns.

                • andagain

                  there is no risk from individuals who do not own guns

                  Then I would be a lot safer if no other people owned any guns, wouldn’t I?

                  Alternatively, if there is risk from people who do not own a gun, you should be interested in deaths per person, not deaths per gun.

                  And from that point of view the US has a far worse murder rate than Britain. Or Canada. Or Australia. Or Ireland. Or New Zealand.

                  Those countries do not all ban handguns, but they are all have more restrictive gun laws than the US.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  “Since there is no risk from individuals who do not own guns this is a valid comparison when the number of legally owned guns in a society is being used to argue for them to be reduced.”

                • starfish

                  I support your line of thinking


                  Some interesting research – it just proves that the simplistic arguments being used by the Obama administration are far from conclusive

                  And the BBC-peddled assertions about the blood-soaked streets of America are equally wrong and simplistic

            • starfish

              Have to be careful with the statistics, clearly there is a section of all societies that murder people – if guns are available they may use them but it doesn’t mean things are necessarily worse than other countries where guns are less available and perpetrators use other methods

              A quick wikipedia search reveals that the intentional homicide rate in the US is not particularly remarkable – there are parts of Europe and most of the Caribbean, South America and Africa where the homicide rate is higher.


              When one considers the open warfare in some major cities between drug gangs it isn’t very high. The problem is the amount of damage one person can do with a gun – these massacres probably inflate the figures

              • andagain

                A quick wikipedia search reveals that the intentional homicide rate in the US is not particularly remarkable

                Unless you make the comparison with the UK, Ireland and their other settlement colonies: Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It has more than twice the homicide rate of any of them. But I grant you that the US has a perfectly reasonable homicide rate by the standards of Sub-Saharan Africa.

          • mikewaller

            Are you so convinced of the merits of “the American way” in this context that you would favour much looser controls over here?

            • Colonel Mustard

              It is not a matter of “merit” – which is now a political construct anyway – but of the freedom to defend oneself, and that comes with risks. If I were able to legally own a gun for self-defence, would I want to? Yes, probably, given the way that this country is headed. And the 1689 Bill of Rights conferred that right on me but has been taken away, probably illegally. The right to defend hearth and home is inalienably human, regardless of governments, especially stupid British ones.

              Do I think the chances of being the victim of gun crime by a criminal are higher than by a legally armed citizen? Yes.

              The morality in question here is more about states of mind and criminal acts – but guns become a bete noire for the bleating “liberal” mind and a useful causative tool for more and closer regulation of freedoms.

              • mikewaller

                If it is all the same to you, I’d sooner take my chances, unarmed, with some armed criminals armed and some armed police, without adding thousands like you to the mix. And don’t think I am being unkind. My guess would be that the main use made by decent citizens of personal defense weapons is blowing their own brains out.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  No, self defense is a quite common use of firearms in the US.

                  In the US about 2.5M cases of firearms used to defend oneself are recorded each year.

                  About 250,000 women fend off sexual assaults using firearms, each year.

                  You’d have to make your case to those millions of people who each year experience differently than your “guess”.

                • mikewaller

                  My error. I had intended “my guess” to be related to a hypothetical UK in which Colonel Mustard was allowed to have a self defense weapon, not to the actuality in the US. As to your US derived data, it again begs the question of what is wrong with America? Given the intensity of the argument over there it seems to me that such statistics may well be open to challenge; but, if not, God help them. Incidentally, does “use” encompass threatened use, or do most people who discharge their weapons miss?

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Well, violent crime rates are falling in the US, even as gun laws continue to be relaxed, while violent crime continues to rise in the UK, Australia and elsewhere your preferred gun control regime is taking hold.

                  If you’re interested in the ways people use firearms for self defense in the US, there are many good sources for you to consult, and I’d start with an internet search, rather than open ended questions in chatrooms.

                  And keep in mind, your preferred course of action will leave those US millions defenseless. Guns save lives, and property. It is disingenuous to claim otherwise, or ignore those numbers, in deference to a preferred political agenda.

                • mikewaller

                  You seem very keen to give information when it suits and much more reticent when challenged. As for falling crime figures, this has been fairly general across the Western world and two environmental theories – the advent of easily available pregnancy terminations and the removal of lead in petrol – both seem to be holding up under very heavy attack.

                  I would agree that when things have gone as badly wrong as they have in the US with hundreds of millions of guns in circulation, having a gun may be the least worst option. However, for those of us in nowhere near such a mess, tight gun control is much to be preferred with very heavy sentences for those illegally possessing them.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  I wouldn’t say you’re “challenging” anybody. Your arguments seem substance free.

                  And no, falling crime figures are not “fairly general across the Western world”, as was mentioned to you in the previous post. Violent crime is increasing in nations executing your preferred gun control regime, while it’s falling in the US, which is relaxing gun control laws. You shouldn’t ask for additional data or arguments when you seem incapable of processing that which has already been offered.

                  Guns save lives and property. You may not wish to acknowledge that, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

                  It’s at least honest that you acknowledge that you believe gun possession is “badly wrong”. That’s generally a good stopping point, fyi, once we both recognize your true agenda here, and that agenda has nothing to do with anything other than that belief of what is “badly wrong”, and how that bad wrong is to be addressed.

                • mikewaller

                  As the essence of your argument is that were we to issue guns to every UK adult we would all be a lot safer, I leave others to judge who as to who has misplaced their marbles. This, from the BBC website tend to suggest that an orifice other than you mouth may be in play:

                  “Crime data: Homicide at 30-year England and Wales low
                  The number of killings reached a peak of nearly 1,000 a decade ago

                  The number of murders and killings in England and Wales has fallen to the lowest level in nearly 30 years, Office for National Statistics figures show.

                  Police recorded 550 homicides in 2011-12, 88 fewer than the previous year and the lowest number since 1983.

                  Danny ShawHome affairs correspondent, BBC News (comments)

                  The fall in homicides is quite remarkable – and does not appear to be a statistical fluke. It reflects an overall decline in levels of violence recorded by police – 762,000 incidents, the fewest number since counting methods changed a decade ago. Statisticians say the figures broadly mirror reductions elsewhere in the developed world, so it would be unfair of politicians, police or doctors here to claim the credit for a phenomenon that appears to be driven by something more fundamental.Nevertheless, officials believe that efforts to bear down on domestic and family-related violence, which account for two-thirds of killings, is a key factor in the homicide fall.
                  Police and probation officers have made huge strides in recent years in identifying people who are at risk of attack and ensuring violent criminals are monitored more effectively.Officials said the fall in homicide figures was not unique to England and Wales and there had been reductions in Europe, Asia and North America since the mid 1990s.

                  The number of homicides rose from around 300 a year in the 1960s to about 1,000 a decade ago. The number last year was the same as in 1983. The figures also show attempted murders also fell substantially, indicating that the fall in homicides was not principally because surgeons were saving people’s lives through advances in medical techniques, said BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw”

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Your posts have little value, as you’ve previously demonstrated, and so I’m not going to read beyond the opening sentence of that post, itself a fantasy of what I’ve stated. That’s what happens when you argue illegitimately. You get ignored.

                  Good luck to you.

                • mikewaller

                  What I most admire about you is the gracious way in which you accept defeat.

      • mikewaller

        Can you explain why so many damned awful things go on in America that tens of millions of ordinary folk seem to think that having a gun is a social essential? The BBC has just aired an item about guns and gun crime in Switzerland. Because of their citizen army, their people to guns ration is the closest in Western Europe to that in the USA. Yet in Switzerland gun crime is very rare. I don’t wish to be rude, but if guns are now essential in the US, should we not hear less about “American exceptionalism” i.e. “the shining city on the hill” and more about what has made America so socially damaged?

        • starfish

          I think people forget that US society is different and so is the country

          There are huge areas of genuine wilderness and the country was formed and then extended in violence, with many of its immigrants coming from gun-owning societies and then you need to factor in organised crime which clearly operates on a much larger and more violent scale that the UK

          People seem to think it is like Surrey

      • andagain

        Law-abiding people should not have restrictions imposed on what they can own.

        Then there should be no restriction that prevents me from owning a surface-to-air missile. If you are in favour of such a restriction, you are in favour of restrictions on the right to bear arms.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    A watershed moment?

    A wish born of hope, most assuredly.