In an exclusive, the Shooter’s Log has learned that actors were used to portray customers in a fake gun shop “public service announcement” produced by States United Against Gun Violence earlier this year.
The New York City Mayor’s Office of Media has confirmed these facts in its response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request submitted in March.
“States United To Prevent Gun Violence opens a ‘gun store’ in NYC as a hidden camera social experiment to debunk safety myths,” the CeaseFire USA project claimed in its description of the video. The “social experiment,” like the “gun shop” itself, was pre-arranged, permits approved by the city indicate.
“Actors are interviewed on camera in a fake gun store,” the permits’ scene descriptions reveal.
It had previously been known that the “gun store proprietor” behind the counter was an actor—and one who has previously made a living glorifying fake “gun violence”—but up until now, speculation about if the “customers” were also plants has been just that.
By presenting its “PSA” video as an “experiment,” viewers were encouraged to conclude that minds were changed about buying a gun when the CeaseFire actor made supposedly compelling arguments against owning them.
“To make first-time gun buyers think twice, we did the unthinkable,” the video intro explains. “Hidden cameras captured the gun buyers’ reactions.” “They [actors, presented as customers] entered the gun store looking for their first gun,” the video concludes. “This is how they left.” They left anti-gun, of course. But then again, per the permits provided by the city, that was scripted, and the whole “hidden cameras” fiction was for the benefit of those not in on the performance.
Based on a close reading of the documents compelled by the Freedom of Information (FOI) filing, it also appears the city didn’t require any records or permits for the fake gun store’s inventory.
Documentation from the FOI file (see “Project Information” from list at end of this article) shows the production crew brought in 45 people and five trucks, but at this point, how many gun replicas were brought in, approved for use, and returned is unknown—at least to anyone not involved with the production.
“With regard to your request for ‘any special permits required for signage, proof of insurance and prop/replica firearms used in accordance with State of New York and New York City gun laws for which compliance is required for transport, delivery, receipt, possession and use at the location where the video was recorded,’ we do not have records responsive to your request,” Press Secretary and Communications Manager Marybeth Ihle responded. “The firearms in question were inspected by the NYPD on site and verified to be props, not real guns, so therefore no permit was required.” The concern here is to ensure that a group working for more gun laws observed all existing ones. That’s not unfounded after an earlier FOIL request documented how another anti-gun “PSA” produced at a school in Oakland failed to obtain required permissions for bringing a prop gun into a public school.
“Potentially dangerous activities … which are determined … to cause a potential danger … will be referred … for approval by the NYPD or other governmental agency having jurisdiction over such activity,” rules issued by the Mayor’s Office declare. “Such activities shall include, but not be limited to, the use of stunts, helicopters, firearms or simulated firearms.” Noting the complexity of special theatrical permit requirements for applicants and dealers, and restrictive New York laws on imitation firearms, it’s surprising to find a fake gun shop can be set up containing hundreds of replica weapons with no paperwork, apparently on just the say-so of on-site NYPD officers.
Per the press secretary’s response, it seems the NYPD allowed for scores of replica firearms to be transported, handled and used in the production by untold numbers of personnel, and returned to the supplier(s) with no signed-off paperwork accountability.
Without a separate FOIL request, it will remain unknown if such documentation exists with NYPD, or if it just wasn’t required—and if such a friendly policy would be in force for all productions.
The following documents pertain to the FOIL request and response: