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Chicago Pro-gun Billboard Draws Criticism

Daniel Xu +

A billboard on the side of I-55 in Chicago is drawing both criticism and support due to its contents. Above the words “Pure American” are three objects: a baseball glove, apple pie, and a semiautomatic rifle. According to ABC7, the billboard was paid for by Texas-based firearm accessories manufacturer Slide Fire. The sign uses little in the way of words to link American patriotism with gun ownership, and in the corner a “2A” symbol stands next to the American flag. The abbreviation is, of course, for the Second Amendment.

Not everyone is happy with the sign and its message. The company purchased billboards in other parts of the country, but the greatest criticism seems to be coming from Chicago. The city has a long history of restrictive gun control policies and many restrictions are just now beginning to ease. Illinois recently became the last state to allow concealed carry after lawmakers agreed to pass the law last July. The first batch of Illinois gun owners received their concealed carry licenses last month, but the city of Chicago remains contentious for both gun control advocates and Second Amendment supporters.

“I think there is this great move by manufactures, NRA, and others to make guns part of America’s wardrobe; this is not what we define America by,” Reverend Michael Pfleger told ABC7.

Pfleger said that the billboard is offensive because of its proximity to the city’s West Side, where gun violence is high. The reverend is calling for the sign to be removed, and he is joined by the activist group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“As a mom, I’m shocked and offended that I would be replaced in an idiom with an assault rifle,” Nicole Chen, president of the group’s Illinois chapter, told The Chicago Tribune.

Efforts to remove the billboard, however, seem to be gaining little ground. The sign had already been up for weeks before the criticism began, and the billboard company that owns the sign, Lamar, asserts that nothing on the billboard is illegal.

“We feel like it’s a legal product, and the advertiser has a First Amendment right to try to sell this product,” said Hal Kilshaw, Lamar’s vice president of governmental relations. “If a group wanted to run a billboard that says, ‘We think semi-automatic rifles should be banned,’ we would run that.”

Slide Fire is perhaps best known for their patented “slide stock” design, which allows certain semiautomatic rifle platforms to fire rapidly, a practice referred to as “bump firing” by gun enthusiasts.

Since the criticism started, the company received support from its fans and pro-gun activists.

“Love your sign on I-55 in Chicago,” wrote one person on Slide Fire’s Facebook page.

“I strongly support the ‘all American as apple pie’ billboard depicting the modern sporting rifle, if we fail to protect the Second Amendment, then all other rights will be lost as well,” wrote another.

Slide Fire recognized the media coverage of its billboard in Chicago and other areas, but has not commented further.