Despite what the gunmaker Bushmaster would have customers believe, feelings of anger and inadequacy are a terrible reason to buy an assault weapon. One print ad features a picture of the gun next to this slogan: “Consider your Man Card reissued.” If you feel unsure about your masculinity, in other words, just buy this rifle to restore it.
The Newtown, Conn., shooter got his Bushmaster AR-15 from his mother, and there’s no evidence he ever saw the ad. But rarely has a publicity campaign played as transparently to disaffected young men. The Man Card campaign website, which stopped working Monday, featured a quiz mocking the manhood of guys who can find cilantro in the supermarket and those who fail to act on road rage.
As criticism of the campaign grew more heated, the private-equity firm Cerberus, which owns Bushmaster’s parent company, was making plans to sell it. What’s too bad is that Cerberus’s misgivings come only now — long after Bushmaster began sending pitch-perfect signals to insecure men with grudges.