It’s been a year of scrutinizing social media’s responsibility in perpetuating gun violence. And Christmas isn’t exempt from it
For Dallas-based former army officer Brandon Friedman, who’s also a former Obama administration appointee, it’s become a tradition to out people on Twitter who receive guns as their Christmas present and post about them recklessly.
Every Christmas since 2013 (except 2014 when he was a political appointee), Friedman’s been scouring social media—mainly Instagram—for photos of these people, and posting them on his Twitter with the hashtag #GetYourFingerOffTheTrigger.
“I was in the military and gun safety is obviously a very important part of that job,” he told The Daily Dot. “So it’s just always amazing to me that when you’re in the military, you’re not allowed to touch a weapon until … you’re trained on it, and you’re not allowed to carry a weapon to combat until you’re qualified with that weapon.”
“Yet in American society, anyone of age who can pass a background check can go to the store and buy essentially any type of weapon they want short of a machine gun,” he added. “And what we see is sort of the lunacy of that when we look at their finger [on] the trigger. Because what you see is kids, untrained and unqualified people handling deadly weapons.”
His hashtag aggregates images of people doing exactly that, and users on Twitter call them out for it:
She definitely has a finger wrapped around that trigger. All fun and games till a round goes through the ceiling . . . or worse. #GetYourFingerOffTheTrigger https://t.co/OmQ1h84w6l pic.twitter.com/EUWBTjLfaN— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) December 25, 2018
This is one the best #GetYourFingerOffTheTrigger posts in 5 years. Read the full post from the dad. It's about "liberal tears" and teaching children "safety and respect" for guns. Then he posts a photo of his kid aiming a shotgun indoors, finger on triggerhttps://t.co/Q25B8qcKo5 pic.twitter.com/zdQBj9gzZO— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) December 25, 2018
I knew better gun etiquette when I was 5. Muzzle down unless you plan to fire it. Finger off the trigger until you’ve aimed and plan to shoot something. Giving untrained people potentially lethal instruments is like giving a 4 year old your car keys. #GetYourFingerOffTheTrigger https://t.co/cUEeIC4RTA— (((Penny))) #LendUsYourEars ^~^ ^•^ ^@^ (@pineywoozle) December 25, 2018
Guns are a common Christmas gift: in 2014, the Washington Post reported more and more women were receiving guns as Christmas presents. Last year, North Carolina reported a spike in demand for guns as a Christmas present; this year, a Wisconsin company gave all their employees handguns as a Christmas present.
“I think it’s quite bizarre that Christmas, which is supposed to be a celebration of Christianity, and peace, and family, that some of these people give each other weapons,” Friedman told us. “It’s bizarre.”
And that’s what he wanted to point out with his collection of Instagram posts.
“I kinda wanted people to see that many Americans handling guns today simply shouldn’t be,” he said, “and guns should be kept in the hands of people who know how to use them. And that’s not where we are as a country.”
His tradition already has fans.
Follow friend and former @TheRakkasans soldier @BFriedmanDC today as he highlights Americans giving firearms as Christmas gifts and the alarming lack of respect shown for #gunsafety #GetYourFingerOffTheTrigger https://t.co/Bpu24sWRHK— Dan Feehan (@danielfeehan) December 25, 2018
And he’s off, @BFriedmanDC has begun his annual #GetYourFingerOffTheTrigger tradition. You should take a look when you have a few minutes. These pictures always amaze me. You can’t preach gun safety and not actually follow it.— Ray Toenniessen (@RayToenniessen) December 25, 2018
It’s a simultaneously enjoyable and horrifying thread. And a timely one.
“The people shown in the images have so little respect for these weapons and that … shows us a lot about why we have so many gun deaths in the U.S. each year,” Friedman told the Daily Dot.
The issue of guns as Christmas presents has been previously documented, but Friedman says he found fewer posts about receiving guns as a Christmas presents this year.
Dunno guys. I only found six #GetYourFingerOffTheTrigger worthy photos on the internet this year. Last year there were at least 16. I guess that's good news? Or is it more like the velociraptors learning to open doors? pic.twitter.com/oVAwI4beF0— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) December 26, 2018
“If the hashtag helps save one person because they don’t want to be embarrassed by being shamed on Twitter and it causes them to handle the weapon more safely and take a training course, that’d be fine with me,” he said.