BOSTON — The unveiling of a new version of the provocative anti-gun violence billboard, sitting along a stretch of the Mass Pike in Boston, coincides with the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. As we’re learning more about Friday’s school shooting in Littleton, Colo., the billboard is once again drawing attention and controversy.
The anti-gun violence group Stop Handgun Violence is sponsoring the redesigned billboard near Fenway Park, and urging people to vote in support of a federal assault weapons ban.
“Until we get involved, until we hold our members of Congress accountable, get used to more mass shootings,” said John Rosenthal, a real estate developer and founder of Stop Handgun Violence. He has sponsored the Mass Pike billboard for nearly two decades.
Twenty tiny, primary-colored handprints, meant to represent the first- and second-graders killed in last year’s Sandy Hook school shooting, dot the bottom border of the billboard while an electronic tally marks the number of Americans killed by firearms since the shooting in Newtown.
“In the last year since the massacre at Sandy Hook, not only has Congress done nothing, 32,833 more Americans have died from gun violence,” Rosenthal said.
That figure is based on National Center for Disease Control data of the average number of firearm fatalities over a 30 period. The billboard’s electronic tally will increase by 83 each day, representing current estimates of the average number of Americans killed with firearms over a 24-hour period.
Advocates for gun owners, however, call the billboard a scare tactic.
Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, says focusing on assault weapons misses the mark, and the need for a broader conversation about criminal behavior.
“We continue to have this senseless discussion about the thing, whether it’s a certain gun or a so-called large capacity magazine, or this type of handgun, but we don’t get to have the debates about how we’re going to go after the criminal,” said Wallace. “And until you start dealing with the human criminal element that’s causing all this problem, we’re gonna go around and around on this for decades.”