Gun Control Debate 2013: Is This Pro-Gun Billboard Seriously Racist?

A Northern Colorado city, Greeley, has posted two billboards to make a pro-gun rights argument that some say is distasteful and inconsiderate. The billboards have three men in traditional Native American clothing with the words "Turn in your arms. The government will take care of you."

The group that owns the billboard, Lamar Advertising, claims the organization that paid for the message does not want to identify themselves. The accountant executive of Lamar Advertising, Matt Wells, says the people that purchased the space "have asked to remain anonymous."

Wells also did not disclose the cost of the billboards, but he maintained that he has received no complains thus far. He told the Greeley Tribune "I think it’s a bit extreme, of course, but I think people are really worried about their gun rights and what liberties are going to be taken away."

While people might not be vocalizing their concern directly to the Lamar Advertising Company, many seem to take this advertising tactic offensively. Some Native Americans have spoken out against the billboard, including Greeley resident of Native American descent, Kerri Salazar. According to the Associated Press, she has expressed that her frustration comes out of the fact that this advertising technique singles out Native Americans.

"I think it is insensitive, because even though it is what may have happened in the past, people are still living that … I think we all get that (Second Amendment) message,” she said. "What I don’t understand is how an organization can post something like that and not think about the ripple effect that it’s gonna have through the community."

Furthermore, some Greeley residents, including Maureen Brucker, seem to believe that it is a historical reference to one of the worst atrocities the federal government committed against the Native Americans: the Wounded Knee Massacre on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Historical accounts claim that in 1890, a band of Sioux tribe members were visiting a dying chief when the 7th Cavalry detained them and forced them to surrender their weapons. After a shot was fired, troops began discharging their weapons against the Sioux members. An estimated 150 to 300 Native Americans were killed. 

Brucker feels that the group responsible for creating these billboards should come forward. She said, "I thought it was pretty cowardly that someone would put something like that up and spend the money for a billboard but didn’t have the courage to put their name on it."

The fact that so many Greeley residents are taking these billboards offensively demonstrates that they were created distastefully. While this anonymous group clearly wants to express their views on gun rights, they could have done it in a more constructive manner that would not directly attack a group of the American population.