Advocacy groups pressure LivingSocial to drop events mixing guns, alcohol

Gun control advocates launched a campaign this week urging LivingSocial, the popular daily deal company, to stop featuring events that mix guns and alcohol.

The advocacy groups – including CREDO Action, The Gun Truth Project and MomsRising – say promoting deals that integrate shooting and drinking only encourages that combination at the threat to public safety.

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The groups are invoking December's shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School to argue that companies like LivingSocial should refrain from endorsing deals that glorify firearms, particularly in combination with alcohol.

"In the wake of Newtown, I'd like to know how the people who own or work for LivingSocial can justify profiting from the packaging of AK-47 shooting sprees with an evening of bourbon shots," Becky Bond, CREDO's political director, said in a statement. 

The company, she added, "is endangering the public health by suggesting pairing assault weapons with alcohol binges is just good clean fun."

On Monday, CREDO Action and The Gun Truth Project released a 28-page report – dubbed "dyingsocial" – highlighting a number of past LivingSocial deals of the type the advocates would like to see end. 

In Philadelphia, for instance, a $69 LivingSocial deal entitled "Shootin' + Drinkin': AK-47s, Rifles, and Beer" featured "a forty-round shooting session followed by a tasting of four craft beers." A $110 deal in Atlanta advertised the chance to fire an AR-15 or AK-47 "followed by drinks and Mexican delights." And in Chicago, a $130 deal boasted "45 minutes of shoot 'em up time at a gun range, followed by wine, beer, and liquor tastings on a vineyard."

"The days of the Old West are behind us," the Chicago ad read, "but that doesn't mean we can't still pretend to be cowboys."

Andrew Weinstein, LivingSocial's chief spokesman, defended the company Friday, saying it "take[s] gun safety very seriously" and requires all participants "to sign a form certifying that they have not consumed any alcohol or illegal drugs prior to participation." 

"Our staff has also [been] instructed to turn away any participant who appears to have consumed alcohol or drugs prior to the event," he added.

Weinstein said the deals that combine shooting with drinks are designed simply to allow participants "to have an alcoholic beverage with new friends and share stories about the day."

"We offer similar social activities involving alcohol after other sporting events, like whitewater rafting, once the activity is complete," he said.

December's shootings at Sandy Hook – where a lone gunman killed 26 people, including 20 first graders – has launched a fierce national debate over gun policies on and off Capitol Hill. 

Opponents of new gun controls won an enormous victory last month when the Senate blocked a number of bills central to President Obama's strategy for reducing gun violence, including an expansion of background checks. But Senate Democrats have vowed to return to that legislation this year, and the "dyingsocial" campaign is just the latest part of a multi-pronged effort by gun control supporters to keep the issue in the headlines and pressure business and government alike to make access to firearms tougher in the wake of the Newtown tragedy.

Fueling the criticisms of LivingSocial, Groupon, the leader in online consumer deals, announced in January that it had "placed on hiatus" all gun-related events "while we review internal standards." 

Weinstein said LivingSocial has no policy against "running offers for educational or recreational shooting activities," and since Newtown, "we have not changed our policy on offering such deals."

The advocates are agitating for a different approach, saying the events at Newtown should cause the company to reconsider.

Continuing to offer gun-and-alcohol deals "is not only tone-deaf to the anguished politics of the moment," the report reads, "it is also monstrously, irresponsibly dangerous."