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For sale at Smith & Wesson: Guns, and a healthy dose of fear

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The Mass.-based firearms giant has shifted its marketing over the years to focus on fear. And sales have soared.

A man stands alone in his home, peering downstairs. He senses danger, but is unfazed. In his hands: a Smith & Wesson bullpup shotgun.

“9-1-1 when you have minutes,” the advertisement in the company’s most recent product catalogreads. “The Second Amendment when you don’t.”

It’s a message the Springfield-based gunmaker and the rest of the firearms industryhas increasingly used to sell weapons over the last 20 years: In the face of danger, they claim,a gun is the ultimate safety device.

Advertisements targeted at hunters or shooting sports enthusiasts, once the predominant industry norm, have faded into the background. Broad messages appealing to fear — and to patriotism and masculine pride— have replaced them.

Smith & Wesson, one of the industry’s largest and well-reputed brands, has helped lead the charge. A review of 20 years of company advertisements and internal marketing reports obtained by the Globe found that the Massachusetts gunmaker has sought to capitalize on anxieties and safety concerns to reach a broader base of customers, many whom have never owned guns before. And sales have soared.

Read the full article at the Boston Globe.

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