Washington, D.C.’s Metro transit agency rejected ads promoting a gun-safety campaign, sparking accusations of bias from the industry.
The agency refused to run an ad from the National Shooting Sports Foundation that highlighted the industry’s commitment “to make communities safer.” The agency told the group the ad violated its guidelines but did not elaborate on any particular violation, according to an email obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The trade group said the decision is politically motivated.
“There’s nothing controversial in the ad,” spokesman Larry Keane said. “So, it’s just another blatant example of bias against the firearms industry.”
A Metro spokesman declined to comment on the episode or NSSF’s accusations of bias.
“We are unable to comment beyond the guidelines with regard to any specific advertisement or submission,” spokesman Ian Jannetta said.
The rejection of the ad is the latest in a series of controversies around Metro’s advertising practices. The transit agency has been sued repeatedly in recent years for rejected ads, including an ACLU poster that featured the text of the First Amendment, as well as a picture of a Christmas scene submitted by the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.
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.”
NSSF said it was unsatisfied with Metro’s explanation.
“The ad simply sought to educate the public,” Keane said. “It doesn’t say anything other than we’re making communities safer.”
The group said it plans to place its “Real Solutions” ad campaign in other venues around D.C. The group does not intend to buy any more space on the Metro.
“I don’t think they would take any ad that we would offer,” Keane said. “It’s disappointing because it undermines public safety.”
(Reporting by Stephen Gutowski)