"Poor Al he was a Sharp guy," begins the description of a gun target firm's newest "Life-Sized Tactical Mannequin Target." With a dark skin tone and features that seem to resemble the civil rights figure and MSNBC cable news host Rev. Al Sharpton, the Zombie-looking gun target called "Al Zombie" comes with the disclaimer that "[a]ll Zombies Industries' products represent fictitious characters and are works of fiction" and "[a]ny resemblance to actual persons (living or dead)" is "entirely coincidental."
Was "Al Zombie" meant to resemble Rev. Sharpton?
"No," said Nicholas J. Iannitti, Vice President and Director of Sales for ZMB Industries, LLC, by telephone from the firm's headquarters in Poway, California. "If you look at our website you can see" our statement that all Zombie target characters are fictitious.
But Zombie Industries, on its Facebook page, attributes what seems like a fictitious quote to a a colleague of Sharp ton's, who, like him, has criticized Zombie Industries for making a Zombie gun target that seems to resemble President Barack Obama, and that was briefly on display last month at a National Rifle Association convention.
"I don't know," said Vice President and Sales Director Nicholas Iannitti, when asked about what seems like a tongue-in-cheek product endorsement attributed to the progressive, nationally syndicated talk radio host Joe Madison on Zombie Industries' Facebook page. "I wasn't involved."
In May Madison was on Sharpton's MSNBC show PoliticsNation, where they both criticized the presence of "Rocky Zombie," which they said resembled President Obama, at an NRA convention.
Rev. Sharpton called the target a "stunning, offensive display from the far right," dubbing it the "Right-Wing Horror Picture Show." Madison on the same program said, "They are a sorry bunch of people that I can' t use words for, but I do take offense and I think anyone else, black, white or any other color, would take offense at this."
Little more than one month later, ZMB Industries decided to apparently make use of the controversy. Now the firm has added what seems to be a mocking quote attributed to Madison on its Facebook page boasting of another new Zombie mannequin target.
"New Model: Gun Control Lobbyist," reads the main image on Zombie Industries' Facebook page. "Lower than a snakes Belly!" reads what seems like a product endorsement on the same page, attributed to "Joe Madison, Radio Host describing Zombie."
Madison, who now has a program on Sirius XM, could not be reached for comment.
Before the NRA convention ended, the vendor removed the Obama likeness target at the NRA's request, as was first reported by Buzzfeed. But now, the same manufacturer has made two more life-sized Zombie targets, at least one of is unmistakably designed to resonate with the nation's gun policy debate.
"Gun Control Lobbyist Zombie" is another newly released life-sized mannequin gun target by Zombies Industries. This and other Zombie targets retail for $89.95. Videos posted on Zombie Industries' website show each mannequin being hit by 1,000 bullets, registered by a counter. The life-sized targets are then each finished off by repeated shotgun blasts, as pieces of each likeness, which the manufacturer boasts are made of biodegradable material, fall off as the mannequin turns red.
The description for the "Gun Control Lobbyist" mannequin is clear. "As a pro gun control lobbyist, this guy spent his days milling around Washington, D.C. distorting the truth about guns & violent crimes. He not only believed that firearms should only be in movies, he honestly thought law-abiding citizens had no right to protect themselves, their neighbors, or their nation against violent attackers," it reads.
The write-up goes on to echo language that the gun lobby often uses against its critics. "He chronically ignores facts and bipartisan crime statistics that disproved his anti-gun beliefs and would often base his arguments on pure emotion," reads the description. "Despite being a self-proclaimed expert on the subject, his actual working knowledge of firearms and their capabilities was completely nonexistent."
The description even ties the mannequin to recent gun control legislation in Congress and the bill introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein to ban military-style "assault weapons." The Gun Control Lobbyist Zombie "erroneously thought that banning cosmetic features on some firearms would have an effect on people's safety levels," it reads. "What's worse is that he was even prone to exploiting victims of heinous crimes just to try and further his own political agenda."
Finally to drive the point home the write up concludes: "In other words, he was a real scumbag with no appreciation for the US Constitution or respect for an individual's freedom!"
Earlier this year, ZMB Industries released a "Zombie ex-girlfriend tactical mannequin target," according to Salon. But the product is no longer on the firm's website. But "Alexa Zombie" is. This Zombie gun target wears the same style bra. She is described as being "in love with a young man" who "was married to another woman," and who "become enraged" when he would not leave his wife for her.
Much of Zombie Industries website is clearly not meant to be taken seriously, and is instead presented more as part of a tongue-in-cheek marketing strategy. Borrowing a page from the horror film industry, the "Zombie" tactical mannequin gun target manufacturer's website includes a guide about how to survive a "Zombie Bite."
But ZMB Industries main business seems to be providing "three-dimensional tactical mannequin" targets for training by "Military and Law Enforcement" forces, according to the firm's website.
"We make a variety of targets," said Iannitti. "We make targets for training, animal targets for hunters, and Zombie targets for recreation."
Frank Smyth is a freelance journalist who has been covering the NRA and related group since the 1990s. He wrote "Inside the NRA's Secret Council" for The Progressive's April issue.