- - Friday, August 9, 2013

The District of Columbia government, having resolved all corruption and incompetence in its own ranks, is reaching now beyond the city limits into cyberspace. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has Living Social, a website that offers discounts on various products and events, in his sights. The council members frightened of guns and suspicious of anyone having fun, are outraged that Living Social occasionally offers deals on events at shooting ranges in Virginia and Maryland.

Living Social’s target-practice events are typically followed by an after-party at a nearby winery or brewpub. This creates a pretext to pounce. In a letter to Living Social CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy, Mr. Mendelson decried deals that “pair the use of firearms with the consumption of alcohol.” He says this “sends the wrong message and does a disservice to efforts to promote responsible gun ownership.” He asked Mr. O’Shaughnessy to “establish a policy that discontinues the marketing of these deals.”

Living Social has enrolled 70 million subscribers to receive daily emails from merchants locally and across the country offering deals on everything from auto detailing and laser hair removal to pizza and sushi restaurants. However, it’s events with titles such as “AK-47s, Rifles and Beer” and “Semi-Automatic Pistol Instruction & Tequila Tasting” that irritate Mr. Mendelson. His allies, calling themselves “Credo Action” and the “Gun Truth Project,” have painted a bull’s-eye on Living Social.

Shooting ranges actually have zero tolerance for anything that could compromise safety and enforce their rules rigidly. They offer training in firearms and insist that shooters wear eye- and ear-protection gear. (The D.C. Council might insist on such protections for the eardrums of its constituents at its own public sessions.)

The happy hour comes after, not before, the shooting on the range. Nonetheless, Mr. Mendelson threatens the tax breaks Living Social receives from the D.C. government. This is odd, because the council promotes drinking for its own purposes and benefit. Earlier this year, the city finally eliminated the Prohibition-era ban on Sunday liquor-store sales. Tax revenue will rise accordingly.

Allowing someone to sip a beer after a session at the range hardly differs from having a glass of wine after skydiving or taking a few nips at a bottle of whiskey after wetting a hook. The council clearly wants to express its pique at the rising popularity of owning a gun. Fans of prohibition cite a report by the gun opponents, titled “Dying Social: Deals to Die For,” which recounts shooting-range accidents and gun fatalities, but none involved shooting ranges and alcohol together, nor were they Living Social events.

Mr. Mendelson’s campaign against Living Social reflects an appeal to anger, passion and emotion. One flier, produced by a public-relations company, says, “Even after the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut … the company has continued to promote gun events, including one deal touting ‘a day of popping caps and sipping on taps.’” Living Social has offered these events in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and elsewhere with no incidents.

There are no shooting ranges in the District, except on certain mean streets, and Living Social’s events are held on the other side of the Potomac. Mr. Mendelson must have pressing concerns on his side of the river. Living Social so far refuses to discontinue its innocent deals. We hope the company stands its ground.

The Washington Times