I approve of this.
Jordan Phan spoke into the camera in a Tik Tok post with background music and several hash tags.
“I’ve spent the summer researching whether guns make us more or less safe, and the unfortunate truth is that guns make us all less safe,” the college sophomore said, listing several facts about women’s safety and domestic violence. “Guns are rarely used to protect, but often used to kill.”
The post was part of a wider campaign for a group called Project Unloaded. Instead of pushing for policy change or working with at-risk youth in neighborhoods, the organization aims to save lives and tackle gun violence by changing America’s gun culture — starting with young people on social media.
“I felt there was a missing piece in the larger movement to prevent gun violence, ” said Nina Vinik, the organization’s founder and executive director.
Most people think guns make them safer, she said, but research indicates the opposite is true.
“That myth is really at the core of America’s gun culture,” said Vinik, a Chicago lawyer. “We’re out to change the cultural narrative, to bust that myth and create a new narrative that guns make us less safe.”
The group launched a social media campaign called SNUG – Safer Not Using Guns – roughly a year ago in Houston and Milwaukee. It has since expanded into ten more cities, according to the organization, and the message has reached more than a million people on Tik Tok and Snapchat.
The campaign is meant for young people because their opinions and views are still changing. It includes partnerships with young Tik Tok influencers and Instagram posts loaded with statistics about the risks associated with firearms.
For example: Firearm-related injuries are the leading cause of death for American children and adolescents; suicide rates are four times higher for young people with guns at home; families in gun-owning homes are more than twice as likely to die by homicide.
Nearly a third of young people have had personal experience with gun violence, according to a report released in September by Project Unloaded. Black and Hispanic youth are more impacted than their peers.
The report found, too, that teens and young adults ranked gun violence as a bigger issue than abortion access or climate change. Half of the respondents in the survey said they think about school shootings every week.
The survey also discovered that young people changed their minds about gun ownership after reviewing facts about firearm risk.
“Gun violence is having a devastating impact on this generation of young people, and Gen Z is at the forefront of culture change,” Vinik said. “We’re talking directly to teens and really empowering this generation to be the ones to kind of propel that cultural change.”
While gun-related policies stall in the legislature, Hoyt said he hopes to help drive a cultural change by equipping people with information.
“We want to make sure we’re providing people all the facts we have, but we also don’t want to tell them exactly what to do,” he said. “Each person on their own has to decide.”
You can learn more about Project Unloaded here, and I presume on TikTok; as an Old Person, I don’t use that particular app, but I’m sure their target audience does. Founder Vinik talks a bit later about finding ways to make change that doesn’t rely on elected officials. Changing, or at least affecting, the culture is a great way to do that, but at some point the legislative and judicial processes need to be addressed as well. Putting out an effective message that can later help drive electoral behavior is a great way to start. I wish them all the best.