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Prominent Mass. Pike billboard updating message to call for US ban on assault weapons

The change to the 252-by-20-foot billboard above the Massachusetts Turnpike comes just weeks before close presidential and statewide elections.
The change to the 252-by-20-foot billboard above the Massachusetts Turnpike comes just weeks before close presidential and statewide elections.

A prominent billboard known for its eye-catching gun-control ads now feature an updated message calling on voters and lawmakers to support a renewed federal ban on assault weapons.

The billboard, 252 feet by 20 feet, hangs above the Massachusetts Turnpike near Fenway Park. Thursday evening, it was transformed to read “Assault weapons have stopping power. Fortunately, so does your vote. We need a Federal Assault Weapons Ban NOW!’’ The second and third sentences are separated by a bloody handprint.

The new message, which replaces an ad highlighting the numbers on gun violence and deaths, comes just weeks before close presidential and statewide elections and in a year that has seen mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. Semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips were used in both those attacks.

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“It’s really to encourage people,” John Rosenthal,the billboard’s owner and founder of the Newton-based Stop Handgun Violence, said Thursday. “We’re a nation of people and laws and our elected officials are supposed to represent the people. So it’s aimed at people to use their voice.”

The billboard will continue to feature a counter displaying the number of American children and teenagers killed by guns daily since the 2010 election, in which the National Rifle Association spent $6.7 million, Rosenthal said.

A federal assault weapons ban was in place from 1994 until it expired in 2004. Efforts to renew the ban federal level have been unsuccessful.

Massachusetts instituted its own ban on assault weapons in 2004. The state has one of the lowest rates of gun-related deaths per capita.

“Every day, eight kids are buried from largely preventable deaths, and Congress looks the other way,” said Rosenthal, also calling for mandatory background checks, gun registration, and strong enforcement.

Andrew Arulanandam,a spokesman for the NRA, said gun bans are ineffective because they put a burden on law-abiding citizens, while those who use guns to commit crimes will not follow the law. “The focus of the discussion ought to be to put the burden of the law on criminals, and on arresting, prosecuting, and punishing criminals and people who break the law,” he said.

Rosenthal has been posting gun control ads on the billboard since 1995.Previous ads include a satirical advertisement welcoming criminals and terrorists to gun shows, and a mock ransom not from the NRA, declaring “We have your president and Congress.’’

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