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Pro-Gun Ads Get Feistier
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Our society is certainly an interesting one. In an environment where everyone cheers for the power of free speech, we have situations that repeatedly come up that want to force others to self-regulate theirs. 

Sometimes, for good reason.

But what about advertising? Is advertising protected? 

It is.

With the first ruling in favor of advertising in 1980, and a ruling in 1993 adding additional clarification, advertising (or commercial speech) does have some protection under the First Amendment. Note, the SCOTUS remarked that advertising does not enjoy the full protection under the amendment; there are some restrictions. 

Why this is important: the conversation about guns is continuing across the nation. In some parts of the country, the conversation is more heated than others. Though the Senate did (or didn't do, depending on your stance) its thing, the policy-making has moved to the States. A pro-gun organization in Colorado took out a billboard that looks like this:

That got some people talking.

The outrage stems from the fact that the group that took out the billboard "wishes to remain anonymous" while it uses images of Native Americans, alluding to the less-than-stellar relations between Native Americans and the early settlers.

Today's political advertising environment has changed dramatically since the Citizen's United decision. Under certain provisions, organizations can run "position" ads without having to disclose who paid for it.

No word has come saying that one of these groups is behind it, but the fact that Lamar Advertising is obliging to the group's wish to remain in the background makes us want to lean towards that solution. 

CNN's caption in its article asked if the billboard was racist. We're sure that many will say yes, although it does — though sarcastically — reveal the poor way the Native Americans were treated. But who knows if history would have changed if the Sioux tribe didn't give up their guns? Making hypothetical arguments in that nature seems foolish.

This ad is similar to what we mentioned before: the group is going for more shock and awe than substance. The group wants to poke and prod. Getting all upset and worked up — though understandable — is exactly the response the group wants.

And people who are demanding it to be taken down fail to realize (or refuse to) that this kind of commercial speech is allowed. What should consumers do if they don't want this kind of public speech?

Change the conversation, or ignore it.

We know, easier said than done.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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