Apr 3, 2015

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?


  1. I think the “Don’t Lie” billboard falls into the same category as “Drugs Kill” and “Don’t Drink and Drive”. They educate those that may be unaware of the law and MAY prevent them from doing something stupid. I DON’T see them as blight, but I do understand the concern that the message may cast Richmond in an imaged the city is trying hard to overcome. Would not ignoring the underlying problem be a lie as well?

    Maurice Abraham | Apr 4th, 2015
  2. Don’t see how educating the public is harmful and I don’t really care if Richmond’s poor feelings are hurt by the billboards, but the ATF are a pack of hypocritical idiots who’ve repeatedly broken the very laws they now aspire to educate the public about. They should be disbanded and replaced by a much smaller agency that focuses on its mission, rather than acting as an arm of the Brady Campaign.

    grim | Apr 5th, 2015
  3. Well maybe Richmond is an unsafe area

    speedy decker | Apr 5th, 2015
  4. Maybe they could come up with a less OMINOUS, distasteful image and theme. Dark images, handcuffs and “DON’T LIE” emblazoned across the city are just negative and unnecessary.

    Disinterested Bystander | Apr 11th, 2015

About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.