Read­ers com­plain about gun ad

To ac­cept an ad or not, that is the ques­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - PAUL BERTON

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 thes­ You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or pber­ton@thes­

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