Mayor Butt asks whether ‘Don’t Lie’ billboard campaign in Richmond is public service or blight


Richmond Mayor Tom Butt is seeking the public’s opinion on a widespread “Don’t Lie” billboard campaign in the city aiming to prevent the illegal straw purchases of firearms.

His question: Are the billboards “public service or public blight?”

In his e-forum Friday, the mayor said he received an email from a resident who is outraged by the more than dozen large billboards that have popped up around the city. The billboards state, “Buy a gun for someone who can’t, buy yourself 10 years in JAIL,” and show a pair of handcuffed hands. Butt posted photos of local billboards:

billboard.-4-3-1Butt said the resident who found the billboards “distasteful” and “condescending” doubted they were being displayed in more affluent Bay Area cities.

The campaign is, in fact, specifically targeting the Oakland and Richmond areas through April 19, and also includes radio spots, according to this statement.

The billboards are part of a decade-old, nationwide campaign funded by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms industry. The NSSF launched the campaign in partnership with the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

“The Oakland-Richmond, East Bay region was specifically chosen for the campaign in consultation with ATF,” according to a campaign press release.

The so-called “Don’t Lie” campaign has also been deployed in major cities known for rampant gun violence such as Chicago and Detroit. And in 2013, it was launched in two Southwestern states due to “continuing hostilities along the Southern border, and ongoing media coverage in which law-abiding firearms retailers are often inaccurately portrayed.”

The campaign intends to drive home the point that purchasing guns for the wrong people packs a severe consequence.

“This is a campaign that ATF has called ‘vital’ and ‘an important tool for ATF as it pursues its mission of preventing terrorism, reducing violent crime, and protecting the nation,” according to the campaign statement.

The resident who wrote to Mayor Butt doesn’t see it that way, believing the campaign could “undermine property values” in Richmond by implying the city is an “unsafe and violent place with a gun problem.”

That wouldn’t be helpful for Butt’s efforts to launch a marketing campaign to improve Richmond’s image.

So what do you think, Richmond? Are these billboards a public service, or are they public blight?