It's a startling, uncomfortable image: Two little girls are sitting in a school library. One is holding a copy of "Little Red Riding Hood." The other cradles an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle that's nearly as big as she is.
"One child is holding something that's been banned in America to protect them," the ad reads. "Guess which one."
The ad, released on Monday, is the first in a series created by Grey Group for pro gun-regulation organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which was founded in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut last year.
"We chose these images to point out the absurdity in America's gun laws right now," the Moms Demand Action's founder, Shannon Watts, told Yahoo! Shine on Monday. "We say that we are very in favor of child welfare and yet, even after the mass shooting of 20 innocent children in the sanctity of their elementary school, we aren't acting to ban assault weapons."
The ad contrasting an AR-15 with a classic cautionary tale (which was banned by two California schools in 1990 because Little Red Riding Hood is carrying a bottle of wine in her basket, a detail taken directly from the original 17th-century story by Charles Perrault) garnered an immediate reaction online.
"This is a powerful ad. Seeing that gun in a school environment is shocking," wrote Anne Galbraith on Facebook. "An adult armed with a weapon like this is at war with their fellow Americans—and sometimes they are our children. We must protect them."
"Notice how we have limited the 1st Amendment for the safety of our children?" asked Erin Dando on Facebook. "Now let's do the same for the 2nd!"
But some people have pointed out that, no matter how you look at it, guns have always been subject to more restrictions than books.
"This is a stupid poster. Guns ARE banned in schools, people. BOTH of these things are banned in schools," pointed out Jenny Thompson on the Moms Demand Action Facebook page. "You can get Little Red Riding Hood in another library just like you can get a gun outside of school. This poster could be done way better than this. I'm disappointed."
"It seems they missed the point. Sure, dangerous guns like automatic rifles (those firing multiple rounds per trigger pull, those firing armor piercing or high caliber rounds) should be regulated—and they ARE ALREADY!" commented Kyle Bergner on Buzzfeed. "Should firearms be regulated? YES! But we can't expect that to be the sole solution. That would be like saying that since cars kill people we should restrict high performance cars."
Watts says that kind of criticism is coming from people who are taking the ads too literally. "We're making a much broader point," she told Yahoo! Shine. "Every day in this country, in state legislatures, they are proposing new laws that would propose weapons [be allowed] in schools and in universities. In Indiana, they've proposed a bill that would put armed guards—and I use the term guards loosely, since they're volunteers—in every school and charter school in our state."
Patrick Scissons, the chief creative officer with Grey Group, said that they agreed to create the ads for free because Moms Demand Action's push for better gun regulation wasn't political. "They have no political agenda whatsoever," he told Yahoo! Shine on Monday. "It was really about the people first, not the political agenda."
The goals of Moms Demand Action are to ban assault weapons and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, require background checks for all gun and ammunition purchases, ban online sales of ammunition, and counter efforts to weaken gun laws at the state level. Given the NRA's recommendation last week that elementary schools train and arm teachers, and towns that allow people to carry concealed weapons on campus, Watts says that she doesn't feel that her public service announcements are over-the-top at all.
"What is absurd is that we're talking about having guns in our schools in this country," she added.
The other two ads in the series are still to be released. One shows a young boy carrying a dodge ball—a sport condemned by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education in 2006 and banned in some New Hampshire schools—and the other features a child holding a Kinder chocolate egg, which was banned by the FDA because the small toy hidden inside could be a choking hazard. The ad campaign also features a video asking "How many more rounds are we going to let this go on for?" and showing an AK-15 being fired in slow motion.
"These ads are obviously meant to make a point and create discussion," Watts told Yahoo! Shine. "The NRA has been very very good at creating fear among their members that their rights are going to be taken away or somehow the government is going to turn against them. We're trying to create debate and discussion about the facts."
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