Even as images of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings are fresh in America's conscious, a pro-gun group is sponsoring a promotion to give away 30 guns in 30 days for the month of April.
Technically, the U.S. Concealed Carry Association—publisher of Concealed Carry magazine—isn't giving away guns, but, it says, the exact dollar value of each gun that it posts daily on its website for the month of April. The group expects to give away about $20,000 to its members this month—whom it hopes will use the money to purchase guns.
"I'm very sorry about what happened at Sandy Hook," says Tim Schmidt, founder of group based in Jackson, Wis. "But if there were more responsibly armed citizens, this sort of thing wouldn't happen."
The move comes at a time President Obama is lobbying for gun legislation and when nine of 10 Americans say they support toughened background checks for gun ownership. With the topic of gun violence front-and-center in America, the timing of the public relations gambit is obvious—but it may be a bust, one public relations expert says.
"Good public relations is not just about getting coverage—which this certainly will," says Steve Barrett, editor in chief of PR Week, a trade publication. "Good PR is about furthering your brand's objective. And this certainly doesn't further the objective that gun owners are responsible."
Schmidt insists it's not a stunt. But his group's marketing director concedes it's a well-timed PR ploy. "To be honest, that's exactly what it is," Franklin Cole says. "We want to get the word out about the product we offer."
That product includes a magazine that publishes eight times a year as well as a series of DVDs and videos that, Cole says, teach about responsible gun ownership. Revenue at the group's parent company, Delta Defense, topped $12 million last year, Schmidt says.
But some are abhorred.
"It's stunts like this that distract from what's really important," says Debra DeShong Reed, a spokeswoman from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "Putting more guns out on the street is not the answer."
A spokesman at Sandy Hook Promise, the Newtown, Conn., community group formed in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy, declined to comment.
But Patrick Brown, a retired jockey from York, Pa., is tickled about winning $700 from the group this week. While he won't use the money to purchase firearms— since he already owns three—he plans to use some of it to buy additional ammunition for target practice.
"But I won't use all of it on ammo," he says. "It's in the bank. A prize is a prize, so it's my money."