Press Releases

Stop Handgun Violence Debuts Dramatic Billboard in Massachusetts Calling on Federal Lawmakers to Close the Loophole in Gun Shows that Gives Terrorists and Criminals Easy Access to Firearms

Nation’s Largest Billboard’s Provocative Message: “We Sell Guns! No ID. No Background Check Required. Criminals and Terrorists Welcome!” Highlights Need for Criminal Background Checks for Firearm Purchases at Gun Shows

BOSTON, MA – Stop Handgun Violence (www.stophandgunviolence.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of gun violence, today unveiled its newest advertising campaign on the nation’s largest billboard alongside the Massachusetts Turnpike in Boston. The billboard was introduced at a press conference by John Rosenthal, Founder and Chairman of Stop Handgun Violence that also featured remarks by several local public officials.  Leaders invited to attend included Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety Kevin Burke; Massachusetts State Police Lt. Colonel Stephen Matthews; Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Boston Police Superintendent Bruce Holloway.

The 252-foot billboard displays a new powerful and provocative call-to-action message urging lawmakers to close the “gun show loophole” in federal gun laws that allows terrorists and criminals to purchase firearms at gun shows, “no questions asked,” without a criminal background check or ID.  The billboard, created by the Boston-based advertising agency Modernista, is designed as a mock gun show advertisement containing the message that highlights the ease and accessibility for individuals to legally buy guns in the U.S. without detection: “We Sell Guns! No ID Required. No Background Checks. Criminals and Terrorists Welcome!”

“The gun show loophole poses a major threat to national security and public safety,” said Stop Handgun Violence Chairman, John Rosenthal. “Terrorists are arming themselves on U.S. soil, using gun shows to buy arms for their own jihads. Gun shows are the equivalent of al-Qaeda terrorists walking right onto the airplane while law-abiding citizens wait in the TSA line! The time is now for lawmakers to act and make it a Federal law to require any and all sellers of firearms to perform criminal background checks at gun shows and for any private gun sale.”

At approximately 5,000 gun shows each year and in 32 States, criminals and terrorists can purchase firearms from private gun dealers without an ID or background check. Although many dealers at gun shows are federally licensed and therefore legally required to contact the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to ensure that a prospective purchaser is not prohibited from possessing firearms, private sellers have no such requirement. This dangerous "gun show loophole" has allowed criminals and terrorists to legally buy and sell guns in the U.S. on a cash-and-carry, no-questions-asked basis for years.

“We are spending billions of dollars to prevent senseless violence on our streets and to stop the threat of terrorism domestically, yet unregulated gun shows allow easy access to weapons by thugs and terrorists,” said Kevin M. Burke, Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety.  “It is critical we close this hole in our security safety net.”

 “Cities and towns across the nation work diligently to get illegal guns off of streets, but the gun show loophole makes it harder to guarantee that weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands.  Just this year, Boston Police have taken over 450 guns off our streets,” said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who also co-chairs the national bi-partisan coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns, “The Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition supports Stop Handgun Violence’s mission to close the gun show loophole and calls upon Congress to pass legislation making criminal background checks mandatory for any and all gun sales at gun shows.  This is a necessary and sensible action that we believe will be a great step forward for public safety across the United States.”

There are documented cases in which al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and IRA terrorists have exploited this loophole in national gun laws to purchase military-style, high-capacity weapons at legal gun shows. A manual titled, "How Can I Train Myself for Jihad" was found among the rubble at a training facility for a radical Pakistan-based Islamic terrorist organization. The manual contains a chapter on "Firearms Training" and singles out the U.S. for its easy availability of firearms and states that al-Qaeda members in the U.S. can "obtain an assault rifle legally, preferably AK-47 or variations.”

“We fully support the Second Amendment, but we are anti-terrorist. We strongly embrace the right for law abiding U.S. citizens to keep and bear arms, but unlike the NRA, we do not believe that this constitutional right extends to terrorists or convicted felons,” continued Rosenthal.

Domestically, a high-profile example of the threat to public safety that the gun show loophole poses is the Columbine High School shooting, where all four guns used in the massacre were bought at gun shows without background checks. 

“Any police officer will tell you that gun violence poses a serious threat to America’s young people. Consider that a teenager in this country is more likely to die from a gunshot wound than from all natural causes of death combined. The Massachusetts State Police, and our partners in the Boston Police Department and other local departments, find that simply unacceptable,” said Massachusetts State Police Lt. Col. Stephen G. Matthews, Commander, Division of Investigative Services.  “Working with our local partners, the State Police make every effort to get illegal guns off the streets of cities throughout the state, and in every city we see similar trends – guns coming from out of state, often purchased by a straw buyer, and funneled into the hands of youthful offenders and gang members. Efforts to close gun show loopholes are an important step in helping stem the flow of out-of-state guns into Massachusetts.”

The billboard unveiling marks the beginning of a national public awareness campaign by Stop Handgun Violence that includes a grassroots initiative featuring “wild postings” of  campaign fliers designed as mock yard sale advertisements and leafletting at the Democratic and Republican Conventions in Denver and Minneapolis.

As part of the initiative, Stop Handgun Violence will call upon Republican Presidential Candidate Senator John McCain and Democratic Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama to sign a campaign pledge to enact federal legislation that closes this dangerous loophole if elected.

“We are asking our Presidential candidates Senators Barack Obama and John McCain to support legislation to close the gun show loophole,” continued Rosenthal. “This campaign pledge states that, if elected, their administration will send legislation to Congress within the first 100 days to require private gun dealers at gun shows to perform criminal background checks.”

Since 1995, Stop Handgun Violence has increased public awareness about the epidemic of gun violence. The organization has developed several effective media and public education campaigns using the Mass. Turnpike billboard as its focal point. Past campaigns include a fictitious ransom note designed by using pasted-together letters that read “We have your President & Congress – NRA.”  Another campaign showed faces of children killed by handguns with the tagline “The cost of handguns keeps going up. 15 kids killed every day.”

Stop Handgun Violence was the lead agency in a coalition that came together in 1998 to enact the most comprehensive gun legislation in the nation. Massachusetts currently has the second-lowest gun fatality rate in the nation. The national average for gun deaths per 100,000 residents is 10.6, while Massachusetts’ average is only 3.2.

About Stop Handgun Violence
Stop Handgun Violence is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization founded in 1995 by a group of successful businesspeople including several gun owners moved by the increasing number of gun deaths and injuries in America. SHV works to prevent firearm violence through public awareness and sensible legislation - without banning guns. Since 1995, Stop Handgun Violence has dramatically increased public awareness about the epidemic of gun violence and helped enact the first in the nation consumer protection regulations for firearms and the most comprehensive gun laws in the U.S. By developing several effective media and public education campaigns, including America’s largest billboard (252’x 20’) located on the Massachusetts Turnpike adjacent to Fenway Park in Boston, Stop Handgun Violence has helped change the national gun debate and save countless lives. We have proven that gun laws and proactive law enforcement work. Massachusetts has become the national model for gun violence prevention. For more information: www.stophandgunviolence.org.