Af­ter lat­est shoot­ing, Trump pushes Face­book ads de­fend­ing gun rights

The Morning Call - - OBITUARIES | NATION & WORLD - By Isaac Stan­ley-Becker

WASHINGTON — From the White House lawn on Sunday, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump promised a pack­age of laws to ad­dress the scourge of gun vi­o­lence.

But in ad­ver­tise­ments that went up on Face­book Mon­day, the pres­i­dent de­liv­ered a pointed warn­ing about the prospects of re­form­ing the na­tion’s gun laws, telling a se­lect group of vot­ers that Democrats were in­tent on re­peal­ing the Sec­ond Amend­ment and ask­ing them to sign their names to a pe­ti­tion to de­fend gun rights.

“Democrats have fi­nally ad­mit­ted what they truly want: a re­peal of the Sec­ond Amend­ment,” reads one vari­a­tion of the ad, which went up two days af­ter Satur­day’s shoot­ing in two Texas towns left seven dead and 22 wounded. “It’s up to the Amer­i­can peo­ple to stand strong and de­fend our free­doms.”

The ads il­lu­mi­nate how tar­get­ing tech­niques of­fered by Face­book and other plat­forms al­low Trump to sound one note from the White House lawn and a dif­fer­ent note to a hand-picked group of in­ter­net dwellers. The base gets one mes­sage; ev­ery­one else gets an­other.

Some ver­sions in­clude a video with fore­bod­ing mu­sic and a prom­ise that, “Your Sec­ond Amend­ment will NEVER BE RE­PEALED.” An in­vi­ta­tion to sign what the ads bill as the “Of­fi­cial De­fend the Sec­ond Amend­ment Pe­ti­tion” flashes in red. Users who com­ply are asked to en­ter their names, email ad­dresses and ZIP codes, with the op­tion to add a mo­bile num­ber.

The ads, spon­sored by Trump’s of­fi­cial Face­book page, were paid for by the Trump Make Amer­ica Great Again Com­mit­tee, a joint na­tional fundrais­ing com­mit­tee run by the Trump cam­paign and the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee.

“The mes­sag­ing (of the ads) is straight from the NRA play­book, painted in as dire and apoc­a­lyp­tic terms as they can muster,” said Robert Spitzer, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at SUNY Cort­land and the au­thor of five books on gun pol­icy.

The ads were tar­geted at users across a broad swath of the coun­try, but ap­peared to be con­cen­trated in cer­tain left­lean­ing states with a siz­able pop­u­la­tion of gun own­ers, such as Ore­gon and Washington, as well as a hand­ful of Mid­west­ern states, in­clud­ing Michi­gan and Ohio.

One ver­sion ap­pears only to men be­tween the ages of 45 and 54 in Louisiana, which is ex­cep­tion­ally spe­cific, said Laura Edelson, a re­searcher at New York Univer­sity’s Tan­don School of Engineerin­g who stud­ies ad­ver­tis­ing on so­cial me­dia.

The Trump cam­paign did not re­turn a re­quest about the tim­ing of the ads and whether they were specif­i­cally tied to fresh calls for gun con­trol fol­low­ing the shoot­ing in west Texas.

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