Plans for the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the ATF to bring their long-running “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” campaign designed to inform would-be straw buyers about the risks of purchasing guns for those not allowed to buy one themselves to the St. Louis area hit a major snag over the weekend when the St. Louis Metro Transit system issued a last-minute rejection of ads that were supposed to appear on a number of public buses in the area.
The move won’t prevent the campaign from moving forward, but NSSF senior vice president and general counsel Larry Keane says the decision will likely have an impact on the public awareness effort given that the bus ads were going to be a “significant” part of the campaign. Keane panned the move by the transit authority in a statement on Monday, calling it “unfortunate” and pointing out that there’s nothing controversial in the campaign to give the authority any concern. Keane also questioned the timing of the authority’s decision.
“Metro waited until the day before the “Don’t Lie” campaign began to inform us of their misguided decision. Crime has been surging in major cities, including in St. Louis, and data shows the firearm industry’s efforts to reduce criminal misuse of firearms has a real and positive impact making communities safer.”
The joint NSSF-ATF-DOJ “Don’t Lie” effort was developed more than two decades ago to raise public awareness about the seriousness of the crime of purchasing a firearm for someone who cannot legally do so. The public awareness campaign drives home the message that anyone attempting an illegal firearm purchase faces a stiff federal felony penalty of up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, as well as an additional 15 years in prison if the straw purchase is made with the intent of trafficking across state lines. The “Don’t Lie” program also assists local firearm retailers by providing resources so they can be better educated and prepared to detect and deter potential illegal straw purchases.
So why did St. Louis Metro Transit give the thumbs down to the anti-straw buy ads? According to the NSSF, the authority says the ads would violate their policy of prohibiting ads that promote the selling of firearms; a ridiculous premise given that the entire point of the Don’t Lie for the Other Guy campaign is to dissuade individuals from purchasing firearms for those not allowed to buy one themselves.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time that anti-gunners have allowed their twisted ideology to prevent the public from hearing the anti-straw purchase messaging. Back in 2020 Washington, D.C.’s Metro Transit Authority rejected similar ads after deploying their own specious reasoning.
The trade group has encountered similar resistance from other venues in the nation’s capital. When NSSF attempted to spread the word about a 2014 program that provided free gun locks to owners, executives at Reagan National Airport rejected the advertisement. The airport cited the program’s logo—a drawing of a gun with a lock installed on it—in its decision, according to Keane.
“This is not the first time we’ve encountered this sort of bias in the D.C. area,” he said.
NSSF said Metro’s new rejection of its gun-safety campaign raised concerns on multiple levels. While the agency reserves the discretion to review ads, Keane said the rejection amounted to censorship.
“You have a quasi-government agency suppressing First Amendment speech on Second Amendment issues,” Keane said.
The proposed Metro ad promoted the website NSSFRealSolutions.org. The site details the industry’s initiatives to distribute free gun locks, increase security measures at gun stores, prevent straw purchases, improve the number of records reported to the gun background check system, and prevent suicides. Many of those programs enjoy bipartisan support and are carried out in cooperation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives or receive grant support from the Department of Justice.
Metro said the ad violated guidelines that ban advocacy for or against an “industry position or goal” and trying to influence people “on an issue on which there are varying opinions.”
The rationale deployed by the public transit systems in Washington, D.C. and St. Louis to reject these public awareness campaigns is a sterling example of anti-gun idiocy at work. There’s nothing in either NSSF campaign that gets anywhere close to marketing firearms, though there wouldn’t be anything wrong with that either as far as I’m concerned. But when their hoplophobia gets in the way of non-partisan messaging about straw purchases, gun locks, and suicide prevention, it’s time to quit channeling their inner David Hogg and think long and hard about what exactly they’re hoping to accomplish here.
Personally, I think its time for the Missouri legislature to step in to ensure that neither the First or Second Amendment rights of residents are being chilled by the public transportation authority. Metro Transit not only bans all ads having to do with guns, it also bans the carrying of firearms on public buses and light rail. Both of those restrictions need to be wiped off the books and fully repealed, and I hope that Metro Transit’s latest anti-gun crusade will be reason enough for lawmakers to get involved and put an end to these needless and dangerous policies. It should have been done years ago, frankly, but there’s no time like the present to right these continued wrongs.