(CNSNews.com) - A public service campaign displaying the slogan "Guns = Prison" across New York City is an affront to law-abiding firearm owners and an attempt to scare younger people from pursuing legal gun ownership, a group that supports the Second Amendment charged on Thursday.
The group added that if New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had his way, all guns in America would be outlawed.
Each of the posters blanketing New York City contains a brief message: one proclaiming "Guns Open Doors for Young People ... Prison Doors" and another simply portraying the word "JAIL" in capital letters, with the "L" as an image of a semiautomatic pistol.
At the bottom of each ad is a message that reads in smaller print: "Get Caught Carrying an Illegal Gun, Get 3 1/2 Years in Prison."
The posters are being displayed on space donated by corporate partners, including 1,000 Verizon phone kiosks, 500 posters for restaurants, clubs and bars, 50 backlit illuminated posters, 50 outdoor display panels and 1,500 bus interior ads.
Launched by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Citizens Crime Commission of New York City (CCC) President Richard Aborn, the campaign was criticized on Thursday by Alan Gottleib, president of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), as "perpetuating social bigotry against firearms and their owners."
If the mayor had his way, Gottleib told Cybercast News Service, "all guns would be illegal. In his utopian fantasy world, signs like that would not be confined to the Big Apple, they would also show up in places like Lander, Wyo., or Ft. Collins, Colo."
"If Bloomberg truly wanted to do something about criminal misuse of firearms, instead of teaming with Aborn to pander social bigotry against guns and the people who own them, then these posters would carry a different message so that the average person, looking at the poster from a distance, would not be left with the impression that guns in general are bad," he said.
Gottleib added that one of the mayor's partners in the new campaign -- Richard Aborn, past president of Handgun Control, Inc. -- is "one of the most virulently anti-gun extremists in the nation."
On the CCC's Web site, the group describes itself as "an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization working to reduce crime and to improve the criminal justice system and the safety of New York City."
But "it's not about reducing crime," said Gottleib. "It's about attacking gun ownership."
"And Mayor Bloomberg is in bed with this bunch," said Gottleib. "He should publicly apologize to people who legally own and carry firearms every day in every corner of this country. Right now, he is holding up guns and their owners to public scorn and ridicule."
When Bloomberg introduced the campaign at a public ceremony in July, he declared that "last year, our administration succeeded in pushing through a law that gives New York the toughest penalty in the country for carrying an illegal loaded handgun."
"Almost 70 percent of murders in New York City are committed with firearms, and the vast majority of those weapons are illegal," said Aborn. "These ads, much like the law itself, are crystal clear in their simplicity - carry an illegal gun in New York and go to prison for 3 1/2 years.
"We are hopeful that this hard-hitting campaign will help keep guns off our streets by showing the serious consequences of carrying a gun and put an end to a tragic cycle of violence," Aborn added.
"This important community service project generated a lot of passion and excitement within our creative department," stated Brendan Ryan, a member of the CCC board of the directors and former CEO and chairman of Draftfcb New York, the advertising agency that designed the campaign.
"Our message of 'Guns = Prison' is purposely simple," Ryan noted. "Everyone can understand it. It's cut and dried - just like the new law."
The campaign "makes the point that illegal guns will simply not be tolerated in our city," said Bronx County District Attorney Robert Johnson. "That message must be spread. The new gun law has led to increased incarceration for gun offenders, and getting guns off our streets will make us all safer. Everyone should support this effort."
But on Thursday, Gottleib had a different perspective on the campaign.
"If Bloomberg wants us to believe he really isn't trying to take guns from everyone, he should revise those signs so people can tell the difference," he challenged, "and if he doesn't change the wording, then he is showing his true colors."
"As it now stands, Bloomberg is frightening people into giving up their firearms or never buying a firearm in the first place," Gottleib added. "He is demonizing inanimate objects in the furtherance of his anti-gun agenda, and planting the subliminal message that anyone who owns a gun is a criminal who belongs behind bars."
Telephone calls and e-mails seeking comment from the mayor's office and the CCC were not returned by press time.
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