An alarming new public safety campaign is highlighting the need for better gun safety measures in countless homes around the country.
The 2-minute ad opens innocently enough, if with ominous undertones. An old cartoon plays on the TV. A child lies on the living room floor, perfectly still. His dad tickles him, and he comes to life, giggling.
“Hey, dad, do we have a gun?” the kid asks, as his father heads into the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee.
Cue an intense conversation about the dad’s logic for keeping one in the house—and an unsettling set of incisive questions from the young boy.
It’s the centerpiece of a push from the Ad Council, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and agency Droga5—and its goal is to end the unintentional death or injury of children by guns that are improperly stored in the homes where they live.
To battle that tragic phenomenon—a significant contributor in the eight child gun casualties per day in the U.S.—the campaign has coined a new phrase: “family fire.”
“We can all agree, eight children being unintentionally shot and injured or killed every day is simply unconscionable,” says Kris Brown, co-president of the Brady Center. “Just like the term ‘designated driver’ changed perceptions about drinking and driving, the term ‘family fire’ will help create public awareness to change attitudes and actions around this important matter.”
Adds Brown, “This is a nonpolitical issue where gun owners and non-gun owners alike can come together and play a role in reducing the number of innocent lives lost to gun violence.”
More than 4.6 million children live in homes with loaded and unlocked guns, according to the campaign. A startling three-fourths of these children reportedly know where the guns are stored in their homes.
The “End Family Fire” campaign, which also includes print ads, will run in donated media around the country. Media agency Zenith is assisting with strategy and outreach.
It’s the latest in a string of advertising industry efforts to address gun violence—and specifically, to dispel the notion that little or nothing can be done to prevent shootings.
Particularly notable among those campaigns are PSAs from the nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise and agency BBDO—with videos explicitly and poignantly addressing the failure to recognize or act upon warning signs ahead of school shootings.
The new spot from Droga5 is similarly powerful—highlighting a sort of willful optimism, incomplete reasoning, and potentially lethal underestimation of children that might lead a parent to justify having a poorly secured gun, but without accusing the dad of outright negligence. He cares very much about his son’s safety—he’s just overly confident about his ability to provide it.
In that sense, the ad is more affecting for what it doesn’t say than for what it does. In the closing shot, the kid suddenly vanishes from the living room where he has been standing, debating his dad. He might seem precocious, but really, he’s just average. And upon repeat viewing, the first scene—where the son plays dead, for just a moment, seems much more grave.
It’s not clear whether tragedy has stricken this particular family—but it certainly could.