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Evolve, the gun safety org, scored a certified hit last summer with their ‘Playthings’ spot (7 million views, MSM attention). The lulz-worthy, squirm-inducing PSA made the point that if kids find it – and they usually do – they’ll play with it. On your hip or in your safe, thus endeth the lesson.

The idea was to take a different, more humorous, non-traditional approach to spreading the gun safety gospel with the hope of reaching people who may not be served by campaigns like those run by the NRA, NSSF and others. Now they’re expanding on the ‘Playthings’ theme with a series of print ads designed to make the same point…some more successfully than others. Press release after the jump . . .

Can you really have a charming provocative gun safety campaign?

The founders of Evolve want to keep everyone talking about firearm safety, no matter how they feel about the politics of guns.

Evolve, the national organization focused on making gun safety and responsibility the social norm, follows up its viral video sensation ‘Playthings’ with a print series that further illustrates the importance of keeping guns locked up when ever-so-curious children are at home. The charmingly provocative ads feature kids playing with all manner of taboo household items – condoms, mom’s lacey lingerie, maxi pads, sex toys and tampons – with the simple reminder: ‘If they find it, they’ll play with it.’ That’s an embarrassing prospect if kids find a lacey bra, but it’s a terrifying one if they find an unlocked gun. (Link to downloadable print ads: The new initiative also includes out of home, digital and social elements.


It’s the same insightful, non-political message that helped ‘Playthings’ become the most viewed gun safety PSA in history, reaching more than 7MM people. The 30-second spot, also created by McCann Erickson, features a highly recognizable setting: two young boys on a play date, engaged in a sword fight, helmets and all. But as the mothers exchange pleasantries, they soon realize the swords aren’t really swords; they’re vibrators the kids found in the house, and the speechless women are left watching the scene unfold in cringe-worthy silence. (Link:

But while the awkward humor has people taking notice of the campaign, it’s the good-sense approach to gun safety that’s really fueling the conversation, according to Evolve’s co-founder Rebecca Bond.

“Owning a firearm, and living with them in our communities, comes with the heavy responsibility of safety,” Bond says. “Let’s face it, kids find everything. Some things are simply embarrassing. Some things are potentially lethal and there is absolutely no do-over. Hoping that kids exercise good judgment – or are even capable of doing so – is not a bulletproof plan for any parent.

She added, ‘We have to keep finding more ways for everyone to take on these conversations; ensuring that no other lives are tragically impacted by lax and avoidable safety behaviors. Wouldn’t that be amazing?”

Said Sean Bryan, McCann NY co-Chief Creative Officer: “PSA’s around gun safety are, as a rule, scary and serious. So we decided to use comedy instead. And that relatable humor has really helped Evolve’s common sense message break through.”


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  1. “reaching more than 7MM people.”. Yep, all those 7 millimeter people sure are important. Also, I don’t know anything about the organization, but is it fair that I read “gun safety organization” and I immediately think “enemy of the people”?

    • MM is a legitimate abbreviation for million, although I’m used to seeing it in financial context from investment bankers and such. As far as I understand, it’s basically saying a thousand thousand (M being the Roman numeral for a thousand, although if you actually did MM in Roman numerals that would just be 2,000, this is what we have adopted in the U.S. financial services markets and such anyway). Millimeters, btw, is usually abbreviated in lowercase “mm” whereas million is correctly done in capital letters “MM”….

      Sorry if this is TMI. Probably a combination of the Finance degree and engineering background coming together to create a nerd vortex 😉

      • Nope, that’s good to know. I was aware that millimeter is abbreviated with lowercase m’s, but I was not aware that MM is actually an accepted abreviatition for million. The more you know….

      • I can go along with that. Most often in a financial context you’ll see M meant as million. Interestingly, you will sometimes see MM, but there, the first M means thousand and the second M means million, such that MM means billion. That’s more of a British finance convention, though, so an American is apt to run across that in “The Economist” and not many other places.

        The source of the confusion seems to me to be this mutt of an English language we speak. M means thousand to us, because M is the Roman (think Latin) symbol for thousand. However, M means million to us at the same time, because M is the Greek abbreviation for mega, meaning million. Similarly, k is the abbreviation for kilo, meaning thousand, in Greek; but let’s nit get off topic. Overall, we confuse ourselves because our language has a very diverse lineage.

        • Gets more confusing to some when ‘billion’ means one-thousnd million in some areas and one-million-million in others…

  2. I found that stuff when I was a kid and I did not play with it. It wasn’t mine and I was taught to not mess with stuff that wasn’t mine.

    • I had a different experience. My father’s shotgun was in his closet every day of my child-life. I knew where it was, probably from toddlerhood. I never played with it; not until I was old enough to drive myself to a shooting range. Conversely, I played with the shotguns in my father’s store inventory (2 break-action). I played with these shotguns (age ~8) in the presence of my father, his employees and customers. (No one paid any attention to me.) I have no recollection of asking for permission or getting any training. Never loaded a shotgun inside a building. Gun safety was learned by osmosis in that era; not the best approach, but there were no accidents that I can remember.
      I don’t think there is any straightforward approach to environmental safety for kids. We simply need to recognize that we have to “child-proof” all our premises with respect to EVERY-thing. Every adult needs to recognize potential risks; e.g., colorful laundry-detergent “pods”.
      In my personal case, nothing my father could have done would have put guns and ammunition beyond MY accessibility. Nothing would have worked – except my recognizing that safety was my personal responsibility. I’m NOT recommending my father’s approach; I’m just warning readers that some children will be able to defeat most reasonable security measures.

  3. I have to say that I am kind of tired of hearing the mantra “on your hip or in your safe.” This has been repeated over and over on this blog like it is gospel. If you can’t trust your kids to be around guns then maybe you shouldn’t have guns in the house. I was raised around guns. They were never locked up and the ammo was right next to them. I’m raising my children to respect weapons and to learn how to use them. My kids know they can’t try to drive my truck either. I think it is fine to keep it “on your hip or in your safe”, but please stop presenting it like it is the only way to do things.

    • Hi Wes. Though I prefer locked when not carried, I’d agree it’s not the only way. I think it also depends on the age of the kids. If you’ve got them – you know (or knew, or will know) that attempting to rationalize with a 2 year old is pretty rough. So is trusting 6 of your kid’s friends as they stay for a birthday sleepover.

      Teaching my kids is definitely THE #1 top gun safety method. I also like the deterrence and delay factor provided by locking them up when not on me.

      • My son fired his Mom’s .38 detective special when he was 4. Thought it was fun! Never fooled with it unless invited, tho.

    • If you can’t trust your kids to be around guns then maybe you shouldn’t have guns in the house.

      Or just don’t have kids… Hell of a lot cheaper too (about $250,000 over 18 years for a middle class family – NOT counting college…and that’s PER CHILD), which means you can afford more guns and ammo!

    • Perhaps we should change it to “on your body or in your safe and give the kids the safe combo when thay are learned and responsible.”

      Gun’s are stolen every day. I will not contribute to dirtbag criminals getting a throw away gun. I use a safe.

    • +1.

      There may be an age 5? 6? where children are unable to learn “that is very dangerous, you cannot play with it” but yet are physically capable of operating a gun. But certainly most kids, by 8 or 10 so, can be told: “that is highly dangerous, never touch that unless I (the parent) am supervising.”

      Normal kids are able to get through their childhoods without burning the house down playing with matches, stabbing each other with kitchen knives, drinking the poison under the sink, or hacking off limbs with chainsaws. I don’t see why guns are different.

  4. I think the message is a good one. I grew up around guns and I knew I shouldn’t mess with them, but I have to admit, I did it anyway. I was smart enough to not put ammo in them. I knew some kids who were not that smart and one almost caused a catastrophe.

    Sorry if some people are tired of hearing gun safety slogans like, “On your hip or in your safe.” I used to work in the safety business and if you don’t understand the importance of universal standards and procedures like that, you are not as safe as you think you are. If you think you can “wing” tried and true safety procedures, or write your own, if you think you’re smarter than the generations of safe gun handlers who wrote the rules, then you are candidate for a future “Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day Award” if not a Darwin Award.

    The one problem I have with the Evolve campaign is that it is directed at Moms and I don’t think Moms are the primary target audience for gun safety. I have owned guns throughout my 36 years of marriage, including raising two kids and I know my wife never had a clue about where they were, where they were stored, how they were stored, etc.

    • I can actually see the potential for someone in your wife’s situation being at least part of the target audience for this kind of message – normal-functioning members of a household SHOULD know where the guns are, where and how they are stored, and their basic operation (at minimum, how to check if they are loaded and clear them). I’m WELL aware that this is not a viable reality for everyone (some people are uninterested or antagonistic to the process), but since you’ve worked in the safety business I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you how important it is that “safety is everyone’s job” and that every effort needs to be made to make sure everyone on site be aware of how to handle potentially hazardous objects (and where these are located).

      • I don’t disagree with that as an optimal strategy, but as you describe, she was pretty uninterested, although I tried. So I chose a different tack. I don’t mean this to sound demeaning to her, because she is a great wife and Mom and I love her, but when it came to guns, I put her in the same category as the kids. The guns and ammo were locked away from her also.

        Now years later, she has taken NRA Basic Pistol and we don’t have kids around the house anymore, so I leave a loaded pistol where she can get to it and she basically knows how to use it.

    • Appreciate the feedback. Moms really do like this campaign, but we hope that it sparks some thoughtful conversation between both parents. We have something coming out in June that may feel less ‘mom-centric.’ Please let us know what you think. Thank you.

      • Rebecca, please do not be put-off by the most caustic responses you read here. But do take to heart the non-caustic criticisms and the suspicions.
        Personally, I suspect the “false flag” problem in any promotion of “gun safety” coming from any group or individual with an established background of Anti-gun-rights.
        Where I differ with other PotG is that I believe that the ranks of the Antis include some members who are more anti-accident then they are anti-gun. These members – however few or many – need to understand at least 2 things:
        – PotG are MORE anti-accident than ANY Anti-gun person. (Think about it; it should be obvious.);
        – PotG understand why guns in America are NOT going away. (Anti-gun people don’t know enough to understand why guns can’t be controlled in America.)
        (If you don’t understand this just respond. I’ll explain it to you in an e-mail.)
        In any organization, such as yours, I suspect that there are some Anti-gun members who are disingenuously using gun-safety as a false flag cover to advance their cause: eliminating guns. I also imagine that there are some members who are more interested in gun safety than they are committed to the unrealistic proposition that guns could be controlled.
        The burden of proving that an organization – such as yours – is approaching the PotG in GOOD faith is upon YOU. I trust that you will see this if you honestly review the historical record of public debate. If you expect to achieve fellowship with PotG on the gun safety aspect you must meet us 1/2 way. To you, the effort will seem more like meeting us 3/4 of the way. Even so, that’s the way it is. Moreover, it IS that way because the Anti-gun people have poisoned the air.

  5. “The founders of Evolve want to keep everyone talking about firearm safety.”

    Of course they do. How else do you brainwash people in a culture war to be deathly afraid of inanimate objects?

    • We have no desire to make anyone afraid of inanimate objects. They are a tool. We want everyone to be afraid of lax and irresponsible with potentially dangerous tools.

  6. I’m pleased to see that they’ve dropped the patronizing attitude about how they have to be a ‘third way’ and come in and teach us about gun safety. As if we, the gun community, weren’t already doing the whole gun safety thing.

    Instead this approach of using humor to try to reach the less engaged masses seems downright reasonable in comparison.

  7. I’m curious if these folks that think they can “gunsafe” their kids would leave a loaded handgun where a kid under 6 might get to them.

    Sometime between the time I was 10 and 12 I had access to firearms and even though they weren’t loaded, I knew where the ammunition was too. I definitely knew better than to handle them without permission. Going back to when I was about 4 or 5, I conked my sister on her head with my very real looking and heavy toy six shooter because that’s how they knocked people out on TV. Had I come across areal gun I doubt I would have been safe with it.

    I think the commercial are funny and food for thought. It’s up to you to judge the situation in your home, but I can’t help but notice that some folks have been doing a poor job with that lately.

    • Kids are idiots. My brother shot me in the FACE with a 22blank when I about 11 or 12. I could have been blinded. And no we never told my dad. And I still don’t like Evolve.

    • people who THINK they have “gunsafed” their young kids are probably fooling themselves.

      kinda like the creepy “chastity balls” fool some rather strict dads into believing their daughters won’t follow their God-given human impulses,

      • For those of us who grew up in the late 60’s “balling” or “to ball” was a euphemism for having sex. So “chastity balls” seems like an oxymoron!

    • Depends on what you mean by “could”, I suppose. My kids could have moved things to climb on in order to reach a loaded gun for a couple years, I guess, possibly when they were under 6. But I sure don’t see why they would have. Any time they wanted to see one or another of my guns, I was happy to show them, including the unloading and reloading. Not just “gunsafe”, but safe from “forbidden fruit”, as well. What makes you think there’s anything wrong with that? When they have fired the gun, and they know the gun is loaded, like REALLY loaded, not just treated as if, why in the world would they fool with it behind my back?

  8. These ads are for kids like six and younger, when they literally have a difficult time following certain rules or remembering things. If your kid is like eight or older they can handle the responsibility and have the ability to as well.

    • Maybe. Unless maybe they are on the autism spectrum. Or unless they have a friend who is an idiot.

      Not worth the risk. Taking the kids shooting under supervision is a fine idea (assuming you reasonably judge that they are ready for it). Giving kids, especially pre-teens, unsupervised access to firearms is not smart.

      • Preteens includes kids whoshould be able to handle firearms safely (9-12) assuming no mental defects (autism etc) As for friend’s kids well I would never leave unrestricted access to guests, only my family in the house.

  9. When I was a kid, I used to play with my dad’s guns, even thoughnhe locked them up. He had built a plywood box with hinges, a hasp, and a padlock. I simply unscrewed the hinges, which were on the outside.

    IMO, it’s not enough to lock up the guns, you have to account for the ingenuity of curious kids.

    I keep loaded guns secreted around the house in hand safes.

    • Yup. I remember when they first broke on the scene. Their facebook page was very anti-Second amendment, very anti-gun.

      • And, remember a couple of months ago when Rebecca Bond came here to comment about how much they really ARE just focused on safety?

        Well, her entire point was “someone has to be…we are stepping up to fill a gap.”

        And, uh…completely ignored the MASSIVE efforts toward gun safety that a huge majority of gun owners have already given for many, many DECADES.

        I still think they are false flag.

        “Gun Violence” has not taken hold, so they have to redefine. Watts is clearly on the decline. “Gun safety” is the anti’s new hook. For the the Children.

        • How do we engage with groups like this? We think they are probably false flags. Perhaps some of them – or, at least – some of their members are genuinely interested in safety. Granted, they are NOT interested in safety as we know it (how to handle guns safely). No, they are interested – first and foremost – in not handling guns.
          There is a place for that (not handling guns). Children who are too young or not trained should not handle guns unsupervised. Adults who don’t know what they are doing should not handle guns without a little training. (Imagine the widow who finds her husband’s gun on the top shelf of a closet.)
          A blanket accusation that they are all false flags is knee-jerk. More importantly, it’s not constructive PR. We accuse the Moms of not engaging in a debate or any “discussion”. Should we lay ourselves open to the same charge?
          Perhaps we ought to think about a strategy for engaging with whomever seems to be least hostile; or, being willing to lower the hostility barrier at present. I don’t think we should do this individually; we ought to do it as a group. There is also a place for individual action on blogs such as this one.
          I suggest that one of the national organizations take a lead. Probably the least compromising ought not to try to undertake this. Perhaps one of the more willing to negotiate ought to do so. This organization could offer to cosponsor provided there is editorial agreement. Who is identified as the publisher; something positive included about guns.
          On these blogs, we ought lead with a constructive foot. Identify in the “safety” group’s PSA that we think is constructive. Point out what they did not say – which we think deserves to be said. (E.g., “Each year thousands of homeowners defend their families with guns in the home.” Or: “The Eddie Eagle program is designed for children. Search for it on the internet.) And, finally, point out that we are aware of their prior statements and members’ prior affiliations. That we are not leaping to the opportunity to engage in fellowship with these groups until they demonstrate that they will support the 2A coequally with the safety concerns.
          We are not going to convert the groups that are hostile to civilian gun ownership. No delusion here. Yet, there are a lot of voters getting sucked-into gun-control through the siren song of gun safety. Some of these people are genuinely interested in gun-safety while not necessarily being closed-minded. They can (I imagine) empathize with the needs of women to protect themselves and their children. These are the people we need to reach.
          I don’t think the best entre is to tell them first that the NRA has been doing gun-safety for more than a century. They aren’t ready to hear that. I DO think that they are ready to hear about gun owners who are parents, grand-parents, uncles/aunts who are even more committed to gun safety they they are. We are the ones whose children are always in close proximity with guns and we’ve given the matter of gun safety quite a lot of thought ourselves. If they really want to promote gun safety they ought to be talking to us.
          I don’t care what Michael Bloomberg or Shannon Watts do in the privacy of the voting booth. The uncompromising Antis are a small minority. I care about moving voters in the middle a bit toward the 2A side. We want liberals in Blue States to vote for Democrats who get B ratings from NRA/GOA. We don’t want these voters to primary these Democrats so that the Democrat Party runs F rated candidates. Likewise, in Red States we want to make it safe for C rated incumbents to be more supportive of gun-rights.
          Whichever side, Pro-/Anti-2A succeeds in framing its message to resonate with middle-road voters will win the political battle. The Antis have shown that they are trying to do so by changing the buzz-words to “gun-safety”. Are we best off letting them have this territory uncontested?

        • “And, remember a couple of months ago when Rebecca Bond came here to comment about how much they really ARE just focused on safety?”

          THANK YOU for that refresher!

          Oh, yes, and a woman TTAGer popped in for a bit and flat took Rebecca Bond’s arguments apart down to the sub-atomic level.

          Bond wanted all communication to be done via e-mail, nothing in public.

          The woman TTAGer latched onto Bond like a pitbull on a porkchop.

          Can’t recall her username, I hope she stops into TTAG again…

  10. Gee, when I was the age of the kids in the pictures, I knew where the guns and ammo for them were located. How did I ever survive? I still think hands on educating the kids about guns is the best solution.

  11. Mikethegunguy Weisser is a proud member of Evolve. When he referred to Colion Noire as the “NRA’s house Black man” they were okay with it. He’s the best they could come up with and he’s the right kind of bootlicker they need for this relationship to work.
    He’s been busy. He talks about attending National Medical Council on Gun Violence seminars and seems like a natural fit. What he’ s been hiding is he FOUNDED it.
    I have zero faith that Evolve is anything but a false flag Op. Their tolerance for this imbecile shows their true intentions.

  12. I agree that Evolve is a false flag operation, but I will not argue with anyone trying to promote gun safety as long as it’s not at the expense of our rights. The Colion Noire comment is completely out of line and uncalled for, but I would blame that on Weisser, not Evolve. Hey, I’ve heard some NRA members and even staff say some pretty dumbass things. My guess is there are a few of them who secretly think Weisser is right about Noire, and that that’s actually a good thing, which is even more disturbing.

  13. Who cares if they’re a false flag operation? Their message (here) is a good one. Gun safety is a good thing. Not every gun owner is as smart as a TTAG reader. This message might not speak to YOU, but if it reaches some other gun owner who’s never bothered to think about safety – that’s a good thing. Like it or not, every negligent gun owner is a problem for us. This is another way to change them. Embrace it.

    • I think the more important issue is whether the message normalizes gun-safety as being more-or-less like any other safety issue. If kids eat colorful laundry-detergent pods (poisoning themselves) then the home has dangerous stuff in it. Parents need to child-proof their homes and teach their kids to keep safe. If guns are just one more item in-the-home that is dangerous, then it’s normalized. If guns are portrayed as dangerous in some peculiar / unique way that makes it an order-of-magnitude more dangerous than other stuff; then, it’s misleading.

    • “Who cares if they’re a false flag operation?”

      What if the message becomes “the only way to truly be safe is to not own guns.”

      You answered your own question. If they are false flag, the message is not about ‘safety.’ They can hide a lot of “anti” in amongst the safety-sounding talk….exactly as they did with their first one or two videos until they caught on that few were buying that it actually had anything really to do with safety.

    • Just out of curiosity: on what are you basing your determination of the efficacy of Evolve’s PSAs? Is there some study or evidence somewhere that shows that their PSAs have moved the needle regarding firearms safety?

  14. The fact they can be funny and inoffensive combined with the fact they are anti-gun people holding out a fake olive branch makes this anti-gun organization more dangerous than the more overt ones.

  15. I’m for the campaign, I think this is the most important subject of gun safety. Yes, everyone should be taught responsibility and safety as soon as possible, but if a child isn’t capable (mentally) of making the right decision in the situation of using a gun for defense, why would you even create the opportunity for them to get their hands on it yet? If your kid is curious and clever but not sensible enough that you keep the car keys hung on a high hook, your gun should be secure, too.

    Not everyone is avid about shooting sport and would bring their children into it, some people just want to defend themselves and have no intention of enjoying gun ownership (pity). For these people, owning a gun is their children’s own choice when they are old enough and these parents won’t be buying bolt action rimfires to go plinking with the family. In this case, I still see teaching gun safety as paramount, but I will never simply trust a child to leave something forbidden alone, even if I did the right thing when I was little. In the end, it’s each parents decision how to make their own home safe, but if even one person out there is lax about gun safety and hasn’t taken care of it yet, this ad campaign may save a life.

    Obviously by the Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day posts, we have a problem with insufficient gun safety training, both children, parents, and people without kids. This is the root of all gun fear, stupid, avoidable mistakes, they cause politicians to create limitations so stupid people don’t hurt themselves and smart people have to jump through hoops just to get anything done. It doesn’t solve gun violence where a person is emotionally hurt in some way and needs to take it out on strangers, that’s where someone has complete understanding of how powerful a gun is and deliberately breaks the rule that you must never use a gun against a person for anything but defense, but if we do more to remedy safety education, we will be doing a great service to our culture.

  16. Are you could simply teach you kids, once they come of age, that a gun is not (in their own less-than-graceful words) a damn “plaything”.

    If you can teach them not to touch a hot stove, not to cross a busy street, not to talk to strangers, not to play with sharp things, or any other real “common sense” safety rules, YOU CAN TEACH THEM TO BE SAFE AROUND GUNS.

    In this case you have exactly three options and three options only: Option A.) teach your kids gun safety, Option B.) don’t even have kids to begin with, or Option C.) don’t even have guns in the house.

    PICK ONE (1).

    • Yep. Noticed that.

      TTAG is read by many, many, more people than the regular commenters.

      I’d be interested in any speculation TTAG’s management has on the readers-to-commenters ratio.

      Personally, I don’t have a problem with the ‘Dueling Dildos’ ad itself, the motives of who paid for it are a different issue…

      • Re: the reader to commenter ratio, it’s about 9999:1. We have 2.4-2.5 million unique readers per month. And while I don’t have any hard numbers, I’d guess we have about 150-200 readers who comment with any regularity.

  17. In principle keeping things safe for you and your kids is a great and normal thing – never can be sure of what kids will do. On the flip side us gun owners can never trust anyone these days and are often justified in our fears of a hidden agenda by these campaign groups.

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