Tom Butt
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  Gun Billboard Official E-FORUM Survey - Noes Have it 2:1
April 4, 2015

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Chief Magnus cleared up the source of the “Buy a Gun” billboards in Richmond. “The ATF is one of several components of the Justice Department.  The Justice Department selected Oakland/Richmond as part of their 5 site national Violence Reduction Network (VRN).  The other cities are Chicago, Wilmington, Camden, and Detroit.  Being part of the VRN means we get a lot of technical assistance, training resources, preference for grant funding, and targeted resources of other kinds—all geared around violence reduction.  Straw purchasing of guns (which is illegal) is a HUGE issue in our area.  This is the #1 reason why we have so many illegal guns on our streets.  My guess is that is the reason the ATF has funded this campaign to discourage individuals for making straw gun purchases and to warn them of the federal penalties for doing it.”

In an informal poll, E-FORUM readers came out over two to one against the billboards. Comments follow:


  • Tom, I disagree with your reader. How long have people complained that civil rights organizations like the NRA, SAF and industry groups like NSSF aren't doing their part to reduce gun violence? And now that there's a strong campaign in Richmond and Oakland to discourage straw sales, a key source of illegal firearms that is one component of the sustained violence that plagues our communities, someone complains that it's bad for our image? Did they complain about the DUI and AIDS billboards as well? 
  • I for one applaud the signs and will even entertain the distant hope that we're witnessing a rebirth of firearm safety leadership from these organizations. 
  • I don't see anything wrong with the message on this billboard. It was not long ago that Richmond had a serious gun violence problem. The current police department has been working wonders on improving that situation, but Richmond still has a way to go and you can't get there by sweeping the problem under the rug. Anything that decreases the potential for gun violence should be embraced not vilified. A prospective home buyer would be encouraged to look deeper into safety concerns and what they would find is just what I mentioned earlier, that the situation is being effectively addressed. I don't see any disrespect or insensitivity here.
  • I'd say it's a valuable message but someone who would buy a gun for someone who can't doesn't value valuable messages or value life.
  • A Valuable message and it doesn't bother us at all !  
  • I support the messages on the billboards. In the short run it may have some negative side effects, but if the campaign helps to reduce crime in our city it's worth it. What does Chief Magnus think about the campaign? 
  • I see nothing wrong with these billboards if just one person takes their message to heart. We need to stop the gun violence.
  • I am all for the billboards. We need to get people to understand not to buy a gun for someone else.   I hope they have put the billboards in other cities also.
  • Here is an argument in FAVOR of these billboards, and more like it. (Also, I think these are in other cities in the Bay Area too, not just Richmond. But my guess is, not out in Lafayette, Orinda, etc. But that's pure speculation.) We're bombarded by advertising every day encouraging us to mindlessly spend and consume. Why not a few messages encouraging us to be better members of society? We could use more "social marketing" with law and order messages from "Stop texting while you drive" to "Don't smoke in front of kids." It is a GOOD thing to educate people about the law and invite them to reflect on the consequences of their actions. There's lots of research that shows that people do a quick cost-benefit analysis many times every day; when considering a particular action, you the weigh the possible benefits and risks. "Should I jump the BART turnstiles? I could save a couple bucks, but there's a chance I'll get caught and face a fine." I believe that if people knew more about the consequences of illegal behavior, we would have less crime. Many young engage in reckless and illegal behavior and find out too late that ignorantia juris non excusat: "ignorance of the law is no excuse." And apparently, this issue with guns is a HUGE problem. This from PBS' Frontline: "According to a recent ATF report, there is a significant diversion to the illegal gun market from FFLs. The report states that "of the 120,370 crime guns that were traced to purchases from the FFLs [federally-licensed gun sellers] then in business, 27.7 % of these firearms were seized by law enforcement in connection with a crime within two years of the original sale." All of this said, this campaign by the gun manufacturers is probably a smokescreen to shift the blame to buyers and minimize their own culpability in the fact that we have millions of illegal guns on the street. I believe we should have much stricter laws about gun buying and ownership, and the industry has successfully opposed this for decades. 
  • Guns are in all neighborhoods and we assume the billboards can be found in areas all over the Bay Area (and throughout the country). We do not find them offensive but doubt they will be effective in reaching those who need to be aware of the consequences of their actions.


  • I agree with the points made in protest of these billboards.  They will have only a negative impact.
  • Ineffective, akin to blight. We say a resounding NO!
  • I strongly object to them! What can we do to get rid of them?
  • Do the police think this is a problem in Richmond?  Even if it is, fifteen billboards are way too many.  I'd like to see them gone.  Who wouldn't?
  • Yeah, I saw this one near the intersection of San Pablo and Barrett, and I must say I was somewhat taken aback. While I wasn't exactly offended, it did cause me to wonder whether so much gun-buying was going on in Richmond that the cost of the billboards was justified. My impression is that gun violence has been on the decline in our city. I thought maybe these signs were behind the times. In any event, they do seem to reinforce the stereotype of Richmond as an especially dangerous place -- and aren't we currently trying hard to change that image?
  • I agree completely! Can you find out what we need to do to get rid of them? They send a terrible message, and are indeed disrespectful to the Richmond community and oblivious to the great strides that are being made here to make Richmond a safe, beautiful place to live.
  • I dont see them advertising in Danville or Walnut Creek or BlackHawke (because the local government and the community there) or somewhere in the Peninsula....they would not have any of it... 
  • These billboard ads need to come down...
  • Did any get posted in other cities? I saw them and was discussed.
  • I hope you can successfully remove these horrible billboards from Richmond!!  
  • i'm glad you sent this around.  when i first saw this sign, i thought it was a good idea.......warning people to not enable gun purchasing. however, after reading what others had to say, i agree with them.  children should not be exposed to such frightening signs and, once again, richmond's citizens are being treated differently than a "white" city would be treated.  racism shows its ugly face again.  richmond's gun problem has greatly diminished with the work of our last administration and our police chief and his officers and this is not a way to celebrate our success. i would vote for taking them down, if we can.anything i can do to assist, please let me know.
  • Not a good thing to have
  • It's disrespectful profiling at best. It is also racist even though the hands in the cuffs are white. It perpetuates the image that non-Richmonders have of our city.
  • Don't like it.  Just trying to get more guns in everyone's hands.  Be afraid, be very afraid.  Funny, you don't see many of these in Mill Valley.
  • Insulting Blight. Maybe they were put up with good intentions but the billboards are inappropriate,  ugly, and insulting to the people of Richmond.
  • Yes, the location of the sign does make it appear that the organization is at at the very least redlining, if not engaging in racial and socioeconomic profiling. I asked myself how would I feel if the billboard were placed on the corner of Solano and San Pablo in sleepy little Albany. I would laugh. I think what makes people uncomfortable is that the sign IS appropriately placed. If I recall correctly, Richmond PD confiscates an inordinately large number of illegally possessed firearms. No one wants to be reminded of the harsh reality that Richmond and surrounding areas have a huge problem with illegal firearms. The number of people being killed is going down, but that doesn't mean the guns have gone away. Is it a good idea to advertise the problem? Not exactly good for the PRcampaign for Richmond. But what if the billboard actually does prevent someone from furnishing firearms illegally? Sometimes the truth hurts. Yet, in this case,  being hypocritical in the name of image could hurt us more by putting up with a problem instead of calling attention to it and fixing it.
  • I object to the billboard. The message intended may be a positive one but to place this in Richmond, which doesn't exactly enjoy a crime free reputation, may convey an unintended message.  I feel the same way about the Bail Bond sign in downtown Point Richmond. It is inappropriate for placement in the small business area. It's next door to a business that has experienced three robberies!  As a resident, I am embarrassed that such a business and sign have been allowed. Who sanctions such advertisings? Perhaps they need to consult with residents or at least form a committee to evaluate such signage.
  • Disrespectful profiling. It has a bad connotation for our community.
  • I consider it "disrespectful profiling"!  I agree: the billboards are condescending and insulting!  Targeted toward the 'inner-city'!?
  • There are too many 
  • I have also found these billboards to be distasteful.  As an educator, I am certain that there are better ways to promote the intended message.  I am grateful for the contact information you sent so that I can contact the funders of this campaign directly to express my concerns.
  • This is absolutely appalling, and deserves an immediate and sharp community response!  Could we have someone design an appropriate answer, or, create a petition we could sign that would send a message to this off-shoot of the NRA?
  • As you know RCVB promotes visitation and travel to Richmond. I am sensitive to anything that consistently associates Richmond with police, crime, firearms-it just reinforces a message that we are a bad place. So in that sense I agree with the complainant. Upon further digging, ATF co-sponsors these ads…I question their placement in Richmond so I called to ask why. Awaiting a call back.
  • Don't even bother to pursue the Richmond rebranding efforts until you get rid of these horrible things!


  • Where do most crime guns recovered in California come from?
  • are we really worried about how richmond is "branded" into people's consciousness?  let's spend lots of money to have this kind of crap put into shoppers already dangerously low-on-thought commodity consumption minds.
  • Thanks for asking. It sure is better than the Marlboro Man. We should ask the people, homeowners and renters and business people who live next to these signs. Let them decide. Thanks,
  • This sign is similar to the don't buy liquor or cigarettes  for minors.  What is blight is the AC Transit bus stop on San Pablo Ave. and Clinton.  It has been destroyed and not repaired or removed for months.
  • We saw these yesterday while driving on McDonald and Cutting Streets.  I didn’t think much of it, other than I hoped some people would take the message to heart (young people).  But I didn’t feel singled out as a Richmond resident.  But in all honesty – probably would have a slightly different take on them if they were in the Point.  But then, any billboard right where I lived would be a real bummer.
  • That message is also on the radio, KCBS.  Don't think it is referring to  Richmond.  
  • I saw this billboard in many locations during a bike ride between Berkeley and San Leandro over the last week.  Oakland certainly has it’s fair share of the identical message.
  • I am hearing the same campaign all over the radio too.
  • While the billboards are ugly and confrontative, I think they need to be in areas where people who might buy someone a gun can see them. Profiling or not, we know there are parts of Richmond (and Oakland and San Pablo) where such activity is more likely to happen. I just hope they won't be there for a long time.
  • I wondered who was paying for them. I'd find it objectionable if Richmond were the only community being targeted by this industry campaign. The Shooting Sports Foundation is attempting to show they care about crime and guns. All they actually care  about is selling guns. I haven't noticed these bill boards in other communities but then I don't get around that much. There are other similar campaigns about DWI and Child  Trafficking and no one seemed to object to them.  Further no straw buyer has faced anything like 10 years in jail for the offense though firearms dealers have gotten in serious trouble for winking at straw buyers. Remember operation "fast and furious" by the ATF.    In any case I can't imagine what we could do about them other then complain to the Foundation and in the Media
  • I saw one on the East Shore freeway and didn't think too much of it. I wouldn't want them in my back yard though. I think that organization would be spending their money more wisely by promoting planting more trees along the streets.  I do think the current gun laws need to be enforced more strictly though.  And I do agree that it gives the impression to the public that we are a violent city with a gun problem. 
  • I have seen one oakland at the intersection of 880 ,580 after crosing the bay brige east bound
  • I just spoke with someone in Media at the National Shooting Sports Foundation.  ATF controls what market the billboard ads go. NSSF provides the messaging. He seemed to think that there was some supporting data that indicating why our market was selected but they don’t give him that info. Perhaps RPD can shed a light on it.
  • Hey, why don't we get in the billboard censoring business. I'm sure that many billboards will offend some citiz No matter what the message some will always opt for censorship.
  • I don't see it as disrespectful profiling, though I see the argument that there are probably no similar billboards in Piedmont.  While I wouldn't go right to "valuable message," I don't malign the intent.  And I'm not anti-billboard.  There are too many things to get worked up about.  This is not one of them.
  • Free speech, but all billboards in Richmond should be phased out and eventually banned as visual blight.
  • I'm offended by the poor grammar.  stupid gun nuts.
  • Much ado about nothing.
  • No billboards period