A California-based gun-rights organization says it is proud of its accomplishments since beginning operations 15 months ago and is planning to bring its unique message supporting gun rights to more Americans in 2001, but said its success has been tempered by the strength and financing of major anti-gun groups.
Brian Puckett, founder of Citizens of America, a non-profit gun rights advocacy group that specializes in producing pro-gun advertisements for radio, television and print media, describes COA’s ads as “not politically correct” in that they do not “hide the ugly truth” about the risks of an unarmed — or disarmed — society.
“Our goal is to blanket America with hard-hitting, thought-provoking ads that will stop citizens in their tracks and make them think about the destination and terrifying consequences of the immoral and unconstitutional ‘gun control’ path down which this country is being misled,” says COA’s website.
Rather than ask people to “join” the group and participate in public displays, advocacy, lobbying or other direct support activities, COA instead asks those interested in protecting gun rights to donate to the group so it can produce advertisements that are then sent to various media outlets.
The group’s relatively low budget was offset somewhat by good will.
“Many radio stations played the ads free of charge” as public service announcements, said Puckett, adding that “COA received non-profit organization discounts for some paid ads.” Also, “print publications ran ads for free, and dozens of [cable television] channels ran the ads for free.”
“We are running 5 ads every day (alternating 60 second ads and 4 of the 15 second ads) on WBCV radio in Bristol, VA/TN,” said John Pierce, station manager. “The ads will be running every day without interruption for as long as we are working with the radio station. With any luck, this will translate to many years.”
The ads are specifically designed for high impact, the organization says.
In one print ad, a telephone and a handgun are pictured above this phrase: “If you were a rapist, which one would you be afraid of?” In another, a graphic of a tombstone is featured with this inscription: RIP: Jane Doe, beloved wife and mother; 1958-911. Jane thought 9-1-1 was enough.”
In one radio ad, titled “Thanks from America’s criminals,” the voice-over says, “The murderers and rapists of America would like to thank all them anti-firearm politicians for gun control. These laws really reduce citizens’ ability to defend their homes and families, making America’s streets safer for us. The more gun control there is, the more we can rob, rape and kill.”
Another begins this way: “The best way to understand how gun control works is to ask an expert. Jane Doe is a murder victim who was tortured with a knife and then raped before having her throat slit by a paroled murderer. (Background sound effect: an echoing woman’s SCREAM) Jane, tell us about gun control,” followed by static and silence.
Currently, COA boasts an impressive list of radio stations that have agreed to air the ads or have sold COA advertising time.
Still, Puckett said, producing and marketing ads is expensive, and, “as I frequently hear from other people with non-profit organization experience, getting people to contribute is extremely difficult — even if they absolutely love what the organization is doing.”
The group “raised and spent $102,000 in the year 2000,” said Puckett, adding that he believes “we got a very good deal for the money spent.”
But when anti-gun organizations like Handgun Control, Inc. and others “raise millions from individuals and corporations to get their message out,” it’s obvious COA’s reach is limited, Puckett said.
By comparison, according to The Center For Responsive Politics, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan group that tracks campaign donations and spending, HCI contributed over $332,000 to gun control supporters in House and Senate races in 2000.
And, between 1999 and 2000, HCI took in more than $310,000 from individuals – though that figure only represents those who made “major” contributions of $200 or more, the center said.
Another relatively new anti-gun group, Million Mom March, received an “anonymous $1 million donation” when it began operations as a non-profit advocacy group shortly after Mother’s Day last year, according to The Public I, an investigative reporting division of the Center For Public Integrity, a non-partisan government watchdog group.
“Million Mom” is also set up as a political action committee under Sect. 527 of the U.S. tax code, meaning it is exempt from having to disclose contributions to the Federal Election Commission.
And regarding HCI, The Public I said, “Handgun Control intends to spend $4 million on issue ads this election, concentrating its efforts primarily on the presidential election, 20 close House races and three U.S. Senate races: Virginia, Florida and Missouri.”
In contrast, Puckett said, COA’s finances are “a pittance” next to such figures. Yet, he said, “people who donate to COA are quite vocal and vehement in approving of COA’s mission and the ads themselves.”
But “the truth is,” he said, “COA is at … a critical point. We felt it was important that Al Gore and his anti-gun rights agenda be defeated, so we kept nothing in reserve to keep COA going beyond the [November] election. Perhaps this was a mistake — it’s hard to say. It was my call, and I don’t regret it – yet.”
Puckett said he felt it was important to reach “the millions of voters in urban areas with a pro-gun message,” because urban voters traditionally back anti-gun candidates for political office because of a “constant barrage of anti-gun propaganda from various government agencies” and anti-gun groups.
Without reaching them, “gun owners are in for a very bad time,” he said, noting that “urban areas voted mostly for Al Gore” in November, which ultimately gave the former vice president a 500,000-vote popular victory over President George W. Bush.
The future also looks dim, Puckett said, if more support is not forthcoming.
“At the moment, we’re again having to consider folding up the tent,” he said. “A damned shame, I think, because if we hang in there long enough, I think we can grow as a great pro-gun rights tool.”