The news broke in The Desert Sun, a newspaper based out of Palm Springs, California on Nov. 20 last year. The first quarter of 2016 would see the debut of a new home-shopping channel with a studio in the Coachella Valley. Rather than sell skin-care products and compact blenders, this new channel—called Gun TV—would trade exclusively in firearms. Its slogan is “Live Shopping. Fully loaded.” Gun TV’s parent company—in an either hilarious or tragic bit of irony—is the Social Responsibility Network.
The Sun’s report came roughly seven weeks after a gunman killed 10 people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, an event that occurred about two months after a naturalized American citizen killed four marines at two military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which itself happened only about a month after a 21-year-old white supremacist from South Carolina attended a Bible study at one of the oldest black churches in America, conversed for an hour with the congregants, and then shot and killed nine of them.
Still, the news of Gun TV did not go viral outside of Southern California until about 10 days after the publication of the Sun’s article, when 14 people were shot to death by a well-armed married couple at a holiday party for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, about an hour from the Coachella Valley by car. As has been widely reported—and a detail that is almost universally true of mass shootings in the U.S.—a majority of the guns used in the aforementioned killings were purchased legally.
Starting out, Gun TV will be on the air only from the hours of 1 a.m. to 7 a.m., but there are plans to progress to 24/7 programming. (Several cable providers—including Time Warner—have already said that they will not carry the channel.) Unlike when you buy that Bedazzler Rhinestone and Stud Setter Kit from QVC, Gun TV won’t deliver directly to a customer’s home. After you place an order with Gun TV, they contact Sports South, a Louisiana distributor, which then ships the product to a gun store near the customer, who completes the purchase only after passing a background check.
Of course, advocates on both sides of the gun control debate have had a lot to say about Gun TV. Laura Cutilletta, of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told the Guardian, “My gut reaction is that it’s the last thing we need.” Valerie Castle, one of the network’s founders, offered the argument that “the vast majority of people who own and use guns in this country are responsible.” This might be true, but it’s hard to imagine that being on the air exclusively during the hours when paranoid insomniacs might make impulse buys is a productive way of weeding out any violently dispossessed or mentally ill shoppers—the kind of people who also always seem to pass those routine background checks.
Another slight problem for Gun TV, one that doesn’t usually come up with other home shopping channels: There are no live demonstrations. According to The Sun, weapons cannot be legally fired inside the Coachella Valley studio where the network films. I suppose that’s social responsibility at work.