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18-21: Another Empty Gesture

As the news keeps rolling in, I’ll try and keep y’all up to date on the information and my thoughts that surround the Mass Shooting epidemic in America. My last piece, “Thoughts and Prayers and Guns,” addressed the political perspective in response to this massive problem. This week, the financial players started to respond.
In the wake of the latest Episode of American School Shootings: Florida, the business sector is making strides to lead in defending our children by imposing new policy that raises the purchasing age of guns from 18 to 21. Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and L.L. Bean are three of the major retailers who have committed to raising the purchasing age or removing Assault Style Rifles and high capacity magazines from shelves. These efforts signify a real response to the problem of Mass Shootings. It’s Rich People telling other Rich People, “Hey, your profit margins ARE NOT more important than Children’s Lives.” And “We, the People,” stand proudly with them, raising a collective middle finger to the powers that be. We have put the gun of our consumerism to their backs and forced them to give voice to our demands.

The mountain has budged.

The God can bleed.

We can find new breath in our fight, encouraged by this small victory.

But, as much as I hate to rain on a parade, here comes the Thunder.
After the celebratory confetti clears, we have to call things what they are. We cannot afford to make the mistake of calling these businesses “allies” when they give us one show of good faith. I know, because they are SO far and few between, when we receive sentiments like this from the 1% we take them with no questions asked. Then, in retrospect, we realize they were playing chess while we played checkers. So, being honest with ourselves, we have to realize that this is another half measure on the way to doing absolutely nothing to stop our (say it with me)….


Let’s look laterally at some other instances where health and safety moved legislation or business to take action:

The legal purchasing age for cigarettes is 18 years old. The average smoker has their first, cancerous puff at 15.

The legal purchasing age for alcohol is 21 years old. The average drinker has their first sip at 12.

I understand that these regulations reduce the chances of underage substance use and make it MUCH harder for kids to access them. But, that does nothing to reduce the amount of the product on the market, and the ability for them to be acquired via some underhanded method, which happens All. The. Time. The difference between the drugs and guns, though, is that one gun can take 17 lives at once. ONE mistake or illegal dealing to an upset teenager destroys families and our collective sense of safety, forever.

This is a marketing tactic and it’s not even a creative one. Recently, Big Businesses across the board have paid attention to the popular opinions of their customer base and responded to their immediate aesthetic desires. It’s as though we are starving babies and instead of giving us milk, the well endowed woman shakes a rattle in front of our faces. We are distracted long enough to forget our needs.
For instance, the visual response in advertisements highlighting underrepresented races, couples, and social situations has skyrocketed. Like the “stay at home Dad” in laundry detergent commercials, mixed race couples in jewelry ads, Women/ People of Color in Executive positions in EVERYTHING, and even some commercials in Spanish.
When viewing these things we think, “Wow, a change we can SEE,” and it feels so gratifying in the moment that we allow ourselves to believe these companies are capable of making decisions outside of financial gain.


 They are showing us these things so that we don’t have to feel bad about patronizing their stores that pay their employees below state poverty levels, or consume their products that harm our bodies and/or the earth. They would show us ANYTHING to keep our business. Paraphrasing the homie J. Cole, “In today’s society, making Money equates with Good. Even if the product is harmful, if it makes money, it’s ok.”
Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and L.L. Bean are doing just that. Raising the age to purchase weapons from 18-21 is better than nothing and it’s more than most, but it’s as worthless as the Thoughts and Prayers and weak legislation from congress. It’s a “cover my own ass” move that will look great in headlines, but does nothing to curb the fact that (all together now)….


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