Americans for Responsible Solutions installed a bulletproof poster in front of the White House Friday, promoting universal background checks.
The political action committee, founded by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, D-Tucson, placed the signs in cities nationwide, plastered with messages including “in case of gun fire, hide behind this poster” and “this poster stops bullets because our gun laws won’t.”
The posters, made of “fiberglass cloth placed in a resin,” can stop .44 magnum bullets, according to the group’s video campaign released last week.
“One of the key reasons America has such a high rate of gun violence is because of glaring loopholes in our laws that let dangerous people obtain guns,” the PAC said in a press release Friday.
“No gap is more glaring than the one in our federal background checks law, which allows felons, domestic abusers, and those experiencing a mental health crisis to purchase firearms at gun shows and over the internet without undergoing a background check,” the group said.
Gun dealers began processing applications through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System 19 years ago as mandated under the 1994 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. Since then, states have conducted more than 257 million background checks for gun sales and concealed carry permits, though the debate over how well the process works to stop firearms from falling into the wrong hands is still fraught as ever.
In a majority of states, private sales don’t require NICS checks — a loophole gun control advocates say criminals exploit, leading to higher rates of gun violence.
In 2011, Giffords and 18 others were shot at a public event in a grocery store parking lot in Tucson. Six people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, died.
In the six years since, Giffords and her husband, NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, created ARS to support lawmakers at the state and federal level who support stricter gun control measures.
“Background checks save lives, period,” ARS Executive Director Peter Ambler told AdWeek Friday. “If we want to make our communities safer from gun violence, background checks are a tested solution.”
Ogilvy Chicago Chief Creative Officer Joe Sciarrotta, who led the ad campaign for ARS, told AdWeek despite the polarizing nature of background checks, most Americans agree on keeping guns out of the wrong hands.
“With so much polarizing rhetoric around the gun-violence epidemic, we wanted to present the message in a straightforward yet surprising way,” he said. “From New York to D.C. to Chicago, these bulletproof posters got people talking about current lax gun laws, and we believe that’s a step in the right direction.”
The National Rifle Association — called out directly in the ARS video for appearing to support NICS with “no loopholes anywhere,” — says strengthening the current system, rather than expanding it, gets closer to solving the issue.
“What did the Oregon killer, the WDBJ killer, the Charleston church killer, the Santa Barbra killer, the Maryland mall killer, the LA airport killer, the DC Navy yard killer, the Aurora movie theater killer, the Tucson killer, the Virginia Tech killer and both Fort Hood killers have in common? Every single one of them passed a background check,” said Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the NRA in a January video campaign against expanded background checks. “If you cast a net and the fish swim through the holes, you don’t need a bigger net. You need tighter holes.”
LaPierre blamed the NICS’s failures on “politicians” who don’t demand states update the system with the records of the adjudicated mentally incompetent and others prohibited from buying a firearm.
He said three quarters of states submit less than 80 percent of their felony convictions to NICS, keeping 7 million prohibited purchasers “in the dark.”
“And until the politicians demand that they are submitted, killers who are legally prohibited from owning firearms will walk into gun stores and pass every background check they take,” he said.