Readers complain about gun ad
To accept an ad or not, that is the question
We had a lot of calls and letters this week about an advertisement in the newspaper for a local gun shop.
Comments included “we do not need this,” “outrage,” “black irony,” “totally inappropriate,” “saddened,” “irresponsible” and “take a stand, refuse these advertisements.”
The general gist of the argument is that guns are dangerous, and there is too much violence in society, so The Spectator should refuse to help sell them.
I happen to agree that guns are dangerous, and there is indeed too much violence in society. I also believe in strict gun control.
And there are many instances in which newspapers decline or are prohibited from accepting ads.
Any publication has the legal right to decline any advertising, but it’s a tricky decision.
Guns are not necessarily dangerous, and they are not responsible for most of the violence in society. In fact, most guns in Canada are used safely and legally.
Stabbings are responsible for more homicides in Canada than anything else. Fatal car accidents and drownings are more common than shooting deaths. Shall we stop accepting ads for knives, cars and swimming pools?
Television today is an appalling spectacle of violence. So-called crime scene investigation programs treat dead human bodies with a casual informality that makes me cringe, but we seem to tolerate, even celebrate these shows.
Video games, music, movies, plays and fine art can be shocking, and they can be offensive and violent, but should we refuse to advertise them?
Outside of war, rifles and shotguns have been used mostly for hunting since they were invented, and many — perhaps most — handguns, at least in this area, are used legally for sport and competition by people who treat them with care.
It’s true that we refuse ads. Marijuana-related ads are often declined, but some for “medical” marijuana are allowed. We can’t accept liquor ads from the United States, but Ontario’s Liquor Store can advertise. We would certainly not advertise hate groups, and we don’t accept ads from escorts, although some publications do.
We have in the past refused to print some advertising that makes outrageous claims, although this, to me at least, seems rather quaint in the current era of unprecedented hyperbole, and is difficult to regulate.
For every argument, there is a counter argument.
We endeavour to do the right thing, but neither can we allow our personal views to completely determine how we do business. This newspaper is for everyone.
We are indeed in business to make a profit, and much of our income comes from advertising, so we are inclined to accept as much of it as possible, but we don’t want to do the wrong thing, nor do we want to infuriate readers even if it is the right thing.
Finally, isn’t it a wonderfully remarkable bit of Canadiana that we are even having this discussion?
Just a short drive away, across the border, this debate would be considered humorous at the very least.
Paul Berton is editor-in-chief of The Hamilton Spectator and thespec.com. You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or firstname.lastname@example.org