After latest shooting, Trump pushes Facebook ads defending gun rights
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Some versions include a video with foreboding music and a promise that, “Your Second Amendment will NEVER BE REPEALED.”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.