Photo: Sleeper 13 Productions
For once, gun control advocates and gun rights groups agree — they’re fired up about a new video that urges kids to steal their parents’ guns and hand them over to teachers at school.
The controversial Dec. 13 clip ( Clip has been withdrawn) from Sleeper 13 Productions in San Francisco, titled “Stop Gun Violence – PSA,” shows a teenage boy take a handgun from his mother’s dresser drawer, stash it in his backpack, and bring it to class. Walking up to his teacher after the period ends, the student slaps the gun on her desk. “Can you take this away?” the child actor asks the shocked teacher. “I don’t feel safe with a gun in my house.”
Then the messages “Our children deserve a safe world” and “Stop gun violence now” are plastered onscreen before production credits run, notably lacking any sponsors or collaborating organizations.
The nearly 3-minute video has been viewed more than 320,000 times since it was released on YouTube 10 days ago, and it has prompted over 6,300 comments, the majority of them critical. More than 18,000 viewers gave it a thumbs-down, compared to just 138 “likes,” one of which applauded the piece as “truly inspiring.”
Irresponsible is more like it, wrote another commentator: “This encourages children to lie and steal. It endangers the children and others, and puts them at risk by encouraging them to handle weapons they probably haven’t had any training with.” Yet another critic weighed in: “Gun safety isn’t about getting people to ‘steal’ guns and give them away but teaching people, children, adults, whomever about gun safety.”
The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms even put out a press release detailing the number of crimes depicted in the piece. “We’re talking about felony theft of a firearm, illegal possession of a handgun by a minor, having a gun in a school, illegal concealed carry by a minor, brandishing and maybe one or two other crimes, depending upon the jurisdiction,” wrote chairman Alan Gottlieb on Dec. 22. “… At the very least, the boy in this video would wind up being arrested and face felony charges.” As should the creator, Gottlieb continued: “The message of this video is so monumentally stupid that if any youth does something like this after watching it, the producers should face charges.”
But the filmmaker, Rejina Sincic, told Yahoo Parenting that she stands by the piece and its message. “Kids shouldn’t have access to firearms in their homes,” Sincic emailed Yahoo Parenting, without responding to an inquiry about who sponsored the video. “Violent crimes have been committed by children who wrongfully had access to firearms. Society as a whole should take stricter measures to keep guns out of the hands of children.”
Is there value at least in the discussion that it raises? Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, for one, thinks so. “It doesn’t use fear in a gratuitous, salacious way,” the family therapist told Yahoo Parenting. “Parents can use this as a tool to open a dialogue with their children about gun control and family well-being. They can also use it to let their children know they have a voice that is heard and respected.”
The real danger in this video, says one gun control advocate, is in the unsaid. “Who paid for this and what are their motivations?” asked the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Communications Director Ladd Everitt, noting that “zillions” of people post videos expressing their position on guns. “I’m suspicious, considering it only started to get coverage after right-wing media seized on it.” All the uproar this video has raised is “sad,” he continued. “It’s working up good people who mean well and really support gun control.”