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Community fights to strip 'gun show' billboards in crime-ridden neighborhoods

by Maggie Crane

Posted on September 2, 2011 at 9:17 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 2 at 11:41 PM

When you see a billboard for a gun show, you may not think much about it. But what if the ad was in your neighborhood that's plagued with gun violence? What kind of message does that send? I talked to community leaders who took action.

"We have a lot of momentum going, so to see an advertisement for a gun show really struck a major nerve," James Clark of Better Family Life said.

After all, Clark's mission is to encourage teens to put down the pistol and settle beefs by talking instead of shooting.

"This urban core where citizens go to sleep hearing gunshots -- we do not need to have that image in these neighborhoods," Clark said.

The billboards in the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood of north St. Louis were bought by the gun show organizers Arcade Shows out of Iowa -- buyers who may not have known the neighborhoods their ads were targeting. So Clark called to complain and got CBS Outdoor to quickly strip the boards of what neighbors call a bad message.

"The kids who are losing their lives, they're down to 14, 15 years old running around with guns, and you know, you live by the gun, you die by it," Sheila Holden said.

Holden said gun violence hits close to home. In August her nephew lost his 15-year-old best friend -- killed in a shooting.

Clark said he doesn't think the gun show organizers did anything wrong or meant any harm but says the message is all the same.

"Just seeing a gun show advertised desensitizes them," Clark said. "So we want to be very, very careful with the messages that are promoted in our neighborhood."

"We need more people to support the peace out here and try to help out our future generations," Holden said.

The gun show is the second weekend of September. The same organizers bring it back in December. Clark said he'll be watching to find out if they advertise in his neighborhood again.