A new home shopping channel will launch in the US early in 2016. It will be called, simply, Gun TV.
TV home shopping is synonymous with flashy jewelry, home décor and bargain accessories you never knew you needed. But Gun TV’s specialty will be exactly that: guns. It will also sell ammunition, accessories such as concealed-carry holsters and clothing, such as hunting jackets.
Like established channels such as QVC and Home Shopping Network, Gun TV will feature personable experts explaining and demonstrating the channel’s wares. If viewers see a weapon at a price they like, they can just click online, or pick up the phone and dial a toll-free number.
The principal difference between Gun TV and other home shopping channels is that a Gun TV viewer’s order will not be shipped directly to their home.
According to Gun TV, regulations mean that once an order is placed, a gun wholesaler will dispatch the item to the customer’s nearest federally licensed gun retailer, where mandated background checks and paperwork will be completed.
According to a report by the Desert Sun newspaper, in California, the executives behind Gun TV insist that their channel aims simply to meet demand for gun ownsheep in America, rather than generate it.
“We saw an opportunity in filling a need, not creating one,” Valerie Castle, one of the co-founders of the channel, told the Guardian. “The vast majority of people who own and use guns in this country, whether it’s home protection, recreation or hunting, are responsible.
“I don’t really know that it’s going to put more guns on the streets.”
Gun control advocates are skeptical. Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a thinktank based in San Francisco, said: “The thing that’s wrong with this is that it’s a very serious decision when you bring a gun into your home.
“So many people are killed by guns every day in the US; we need to think long and hard about this. My gut reaction is that it’s the last thing we need.”
Castle and her husband, Doug Bornstein, have spent long careers as consultants or executives in the television home shopping industry. They now plan to market “a broad range of the most in-demand products in the firearms market”, Castle said.
The channel had been planned for launch in time for the 2015 post-Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas shopping bonanza.
But a series of delays – about which Castle did not go into detail – have pushed the launch date to 20 January 2016. The channel will go live via national satellite and cable television providers.
Gun TV will broadcast from 1am to 7am ET, seven nights a week, with the aim of building to 12 hours a day in the first year and soon after to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Castle said.
“Our broadcast setting is going to demonstrate the products and we’re going to tell the backstory on the manufacturer, on the materials used to make these products, what kind of wood has gone into the making of the rifle, for example, how it feels to hold it,” Castle said. She also promised “stunning” sets.
Gun TV will feature shooting demonstrations by former law enforcement personnel, former members of the military and sharpshooters with a profile among the fanbase, such as ex-Olympic marksmen and season winners of the reality TV show Top Shot, Castle said.
Weapons cannot legally be fired inside the studios in California from where the channel will be presented, so they will be shown to the audience there in inactive form, supplemented by footage taken on exterior locations.
Castle and Bornstein are based in California, near Palm Springs. Castle said the venture was being started with private funding, but declined to go into detail about investors or business targets.
Gun TV’s holding corporation is based in Delaware and the couple have named the parent company of the channel the Social Responsibility Network.
Castle repeatedly emphasised the channel’s aim to promote responsible gun ownership and use. Gun TV will present three minutes of safety education programming per hour.
A promotional video on the channel’s website, gun.tv, says it will “responsibly offer extraordinary access to purchase the most diverse representation of firearms in the world”.
Castle said she grew up in a family of bear hunters near the Sierra Nevada in California, where the dangers of firearms, especially to children, were constantly emphasized, “and we never had an accident”.
The video goes on to say: “The gun sales environment in America is fertile and the Gun TV 24-hour direct sales network is poised to capitalize on that opportunity”.
Cutilletta, however, cited the 85 shooting deaths that happen every day in the US, adding up to more than 30,000 deaths a year, and said she did not believe Gun TV would only meet existing demand and not create a new market of first-time gun owners.
“If you’re just flicking through the TV channels and you come across this, it could put the idea into your head of owning a gun,” she said. “They’re going to put guns in enticing settings.
Castle said that if a customer tried to order a firearm that was not legal in his or her state, it would be flagged automatically to the sales staff and the customer would be redirected to an appropriate alternative product.
Castle said she stayed “neutral” about the issue of guns being purchased for personal safety or home security, saying that was the “personal decision” of the individual.
She denied that Gun TV would add to the number of guns in the hands of criminals and street gangs, or shootings involving children.
“We are going to educate people about the importance of getting good training. I don’t weigh in politically on the gun control issue,” she said.
Home shopping channels in general specialise in offering viewers a sense of personal style, demonstrators in brightly decorated studios repeatedly touching and feeling the products they are marketing and speaking in a warm, intimate style about the advantages and different uses of each object.
Such talk is interspersed with information about how many items have been sold that day, or that hour, and which items are about to sell out or go up in price if the consumer does not buy before a certain deadline.
Castle summed up the appeal of such a world.
“It’s just like having a personal shopper when you go to Nordstrom,” she said. “They are trained in what is going to suit you.