To combat the use of gun shows at weddings, the Permanent Peace Movement created a fake service company called "Eleguns" to be exhibited at the largest wedding fair in Beirut, Lebanon. The purpose of Eleguns is to create awareness on the lethality and illegality of having such celebratory gunfire.
Shooting has become a popular mode of expressing emotion and commemorating special events. The examples range from reactions to news, weddings, or even as a response to school test results. The tradition of firing bullets into the sky as a form of festivities is not only outlawed but hurts and claims countless innocent lives every year. The Permanent Peace Movement reported that 90 people died due to stray bullets in 2017. One could point back to the Lebanese Civil War from 1975 to 1990 as a source of the excessive unlicensed weapons, plaguing the safety and security of civilians today.
As a result of all these incidents, the police have made more than 130 arrests between June and July in 2016. Article 75 of the Firearms Act of 1959 prevents the act of discharging a weapon in residential areas or in a crowd, regardless of the legality of the firearm. This law was then updated on October 27th, 2016 as the older version was not effective. Now, in case of death, there is an increase in the potential fine at 675,000 LBP ($460) per month. Also, the substitution of fines for prison time has been abolished. The law condemns the use of gun shows at weddings with a penalty of 6 months to a possible 3 years in prison. Manslaughter through the act of celebratory fire will be a minimum of 10 years in jail, along with a fine of 20-25 times the minimum wage.
The Permanent Peace Movement is an independent Lebanese non-governmental organization. It was established in 1986 during the Lebanese civil war by a group of university youth who believed in the inevitability of the common destiny of the Lebanese. It is a member many regional and international networks working in the area of peace, non-violence and conflict prevention. The Permanent Peace Movement works with various sectors of society to help with conflict resolution and the prevention and advocacy work for the control of armaments.
The fabricated Eleguns gun show company, coming directly from the Permanent Peace Movement, chose to advertise themselves at the 2017 “Wedding Folies”. At their booth, they would display the types and specifications of the weapons, as well as the selections of shooters who could perform at the celebrator’s show. In an online promotional video, young couples approached the booth with disbelief that such an act was being displayed so publicly while some declined Elegun’s service, saying, “the boys from our village are always ready”, or “We don’t need you. We can get them for free”. After learning that the company will not be held liable for deaths or injuries, one elected to “do it himself”. Others who were attracted to the service shortly found out that the company did not really exist. They then had to sign a pledge for an unarmed wedding and also to promise to report any illegal shooting incidents that might be encountered in the future.
Online customers could also look at Elegun’s online website to shop. One would scroll through and select the shooter, the various guns, and even the gunman’s dress. But, as they enter the final page to see the total cost, they will only find out that the only expenses are the “lives of friends and family”. This initiative to stop this illegal and deadly tradition additionally uses the platforms of social media, with the hashtag #gunfreewedding on twitter and the presence of Elegun on Facebook, to further promote their message.
1442 couples have signed the pledge at the Wedding Follies event to have a gun free wedding. Out of the 1442 couples, 1003 couples signed without much hesitation, but about 439 couples signed the pledge after showing some interest in the Eleguns service. They changed their minds after learning that celebratory gunfire was now illegal. 97 couples who visited the stand took the newly learned information and passed it on to their friends. Also, 30% of the people, who visited the stand, changed their mind.
There were a few reasons why couples wouldn’t sign the pledge. One groom said, “I would be lying if I sign”. Another said, “we want to shoot at our wedding and we don’t see it as wrong", and “this is a once in a lifetime event, it’s our tradition, we want to do it”. One didn’t sign the pledge as he was offended when he learned that Eleguns was a fake company.
The online campaign created a shock factor at first. The Eleguns’ ads were screenshotted and shared across different social media channels. Many were wondering about the veracity of Eleguns. 3000 visitors came to the website in the first 48 hours. The campaign was supported by a lot of politicians, social media influencers, and was even tweeted about by the Prime Minister.
A further way to promote the cessation of celebratory gunfire is to work with religious figures in Lebanon. The creators of Eleguns are trying to have priests and pastors to talk about the dangers of this tradition at sermons as well.
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The tactic demonstrated creative marketing and timing that grabbed people’s attention and allowed the organization to educate them on a harmful practice. In India, an organization used fake money to address issues of corruption. A key to this kind of tactic is to know your audience: Who are you trying to target? Who is the biggest offender? By knowing the audience and what they care about, you are able to form a more effective tactic. Eleguns did this by targeting couples at a wedding expo to persuade them not to use the harmful practice of gun fire at their wedding. Weddings are an event where gunfire is commonly used. Framing the tactic in an engaging way makes it easier to grab the attention of your audience. By showing that gunfire could harm or kill loved ones, the tactic effectively appealed to the audience’s emotions and was successful in changing their mind about the issue.
This tactic needed to be used in tandem with other tactics, such as marketing, promotion, social media campaigns, and other forms of awareness raising. The success of this tactic stemmed from its ability to leverage existing laws prohibiting the harmful practice, reach a large number of people, and engage them in a creative way.