Public Awareness Campaign Will Continue With Donated Billboards in Boston Area
Boston, MA – The iconic Stop Handgun Violence billboard that has hung alongside the Massachusetts Turnpike near Fenway Park for the past 20 years will come down soon. The massive 252’ x 20’ billboard message, which has helped inform and change the debate on gun violence in America, will be removed under the terms of the sale of the Lansdowne Street Garage.
The public awareness campaign sponsored by “Stop Handgun Violence” will continue, however, on more than two dozen new digital and vinyl billboards in and around Boston, donated by Clear Channel, Logan Communications, Total Outdoor and Outfront Media. The current billboard, meanwhile, will remain up until changed over by the Boston Red Sox, who now own the garage.
The billboards are meant to be an interim solution to keep the campaign moving forward until a new permanent billboard is constructed on the Fenway Center development built on MassPike air rights in Kenmore Square. With the support of Mayor Marty Walsh, Fenway Center’s developer, John Rosenthal, plans to relocate the famous Stop Handgun Violence billboard in a new permanent location installed on the Fenway Center complex.
“It’ll be sad to see the huge billboard come down after all these years, but thanks to our new creative team and outdoor advertising company partners this campaign will continue and our message will live on and be seen by more people in many new locations,” said John Rosenthal, co-founder of Stop Handgun Violence and President of Meredith Management. “In 1995, we put the billboard up to change the dialogue on gun violence in America and ultimately change gun laws and make Massachusetts a national model for gun violence prevention. Over the last twenty years, we have worked with law enforcement, community organizations, elected officials, survivors and a variety of faith based groups to effectively change the historically polarized debate to one that now respects gun rights and gun violence prevention laws and initiatives. As a result we’ve enacted the most effective gun laws in the nation and we’ve saved countless lives and endless grief from preventable gun violence.”
Mayor Walsh said: “I thank John Rosenthal and “Stop Handgun Violence” for the continued commitment to educating our community about the importance of strong gun safety laws and the real life consequences of gun violence. I look forward to their partnership as we go forward with the work of removing illegal guns from our streets and stemming gun violence in Boston.”
The new billboards will carry the campaign’s latest message: “We’re Not Anti-Gun. We’re Pro-Life. Massachusetts Gun Laws Save Lives.” They will feature a Bushmaster XM-15 assault rifle (used at Sandy Hook Elementary School and by the DC sniper) with a white flag hanging out of the barrel. They will also carry the Twitter hashtag #GunLawsWork”. The billboards were designed pro-bono by Group88442, a group of Boston-based creative designers which includes Nick N., Lawrence W., Josh B., and Giancarlo P.
“Stop Handgun Violence has never been anti-gun, and we don’t believe the debate should be framed that way,” Rosenthal said. “I’ve been a gun owner my whole adult life, and we have always focused our efforts on reducing gun violence without banning guns. The use of the phrase: ‘We’re Not Anti-Gun. We’re Pro-Life’ is an honest and provocative way of saying that we support the second Amendment and responsible gun laws that preserve individual gun rights but also attempt to make it harder for kids, criminals, the mentally ill and other prohibited people from easily accessing firearms without detection by law enforcement. The white flag signifies a truce, a middle ground in a discussion that has been framed as ‘anti-gun’ versus ‘pro gun.’”
The billboards will appear on major highways throughout Greater Boston, down to Fall River, up to Lawrence, and out to Worcester. Locations include: the Southeast Expressway (North and South), Route 128 in Lynnfield, I-95 in Peabody and Wakefield, I-93 in Somerville and Medford, I-290 and I-146 in Worcester, I-195 in Fall River, Route 1 in Peabody and Malden, Route 1A near Logan Airport, I-495 in Lawrence and Haverhill and Route 9 in Westboro.
Since 1994 when Stop Handgun Violence began its work and installed the first billboard, the number of gun deaths in Massachusetts has dropped 63% from 309 in 1994 to 213 in 2013. Through public awareness and education, Stop Handgun Violence has helped enact meaningful and effective legislation in the Commonwealth, including mandatory safety training and safe gun storage/child access prevention laws, renewable licensing (like driver’s licenses), expanded background checks for private gun sales, first-in-the-nation consumer protection standards for firearms sold in the state and a permanent ban on the sale of military style assault weapons and ammunition magazines with greater than ten rounds. As a result, urban industrial Massachusetts now has the lowest number of gun deaths per capita in the nation.
In the past, Stop Handgun Violence billboards have included provocative and at times irreverent messages about responsible gun ownership, gun trafficking, the NRA’s control of Congress and the real life consequences of gun violence.
“I’m extremely proud of what we have accomplished and I can’t even begin to process how good it feels to have helped save lives from preventable gun violence,” Rosenthal said. “Massachusetts is the model for the nation, and thanks to the generosity and involvement of our friends at Group 88442, Clear Channel, Logan Communications, Outfront Media and Total Outdoor, we will continue to spread our provocative gun violence prevention message.”
Rosenthal added he is anxious to see the new billboard hanging on the Fenway Center complex located on the Massachusetts Turnpike at the gateway to Boston.
“Mayor Walsh understands the importance of Boston and the Commonwealth’s role in sensible gun laws, and thanks to him Stop Handgun Violence will have a new permanent home to communicate its message to thousands of motorists coming into the city every day,” Rosenthal said.
A retrospective of the MassPike billboard campaign can be found here