Don't Buy a Gun? In Snohomish, Thems Fightin' Words

Washington Ceasefire's public health campaign has returned to Metro buses this year, once again imploring riders to not buy guns.

The ads are squarely focused on the public health implications of gun ownership – having the weapons in the house raises the risk of suicide and deadly domestic disputes.

But in a sign of how out of whack the gun debate has gotten in the country, even those research-backed arguments against personal gun ownership proved too political for Snohomish County's bus service, which rejected running the ads this year.

“The crux of it is that we don't want the advertizing to detract from the primary mission of providing bus services,” says Community Transit spokesman Martin Munguia in explaining why his agency rejected the Ceasefire ad.

The bus services allowed the ads to run last year, but a new policy adopted on May 2 aims to avoid any and all advertising that touches on hot button issues, or in Munguia's words: “Animal rights, peace in the Middle East, ads that generate controversy or talk a lot about issues that are controversial in the public discourse.”

The new policy was handed down amidst a state-wide budget crunch for public transit. Asked why Community Transit would become more restrictive with its advertising during a time of dwindling resources, Munguia says they have plenty of advertisers lined up; foregoing Ceasefire's ad does not equal foregoing ad revenue.

But philosophically, it comes down to this: “You are turning down revenue … trying to avoid all the elements that detract from the main mission.”

It's a logic that has Ceasefire's Ralph Fascitelli climbing up the walls: While Ceasefire does lobby for stricter gun laws in Washington, the ad campaign is intentionally designed to avoid policy discussions.

“These are public health ads. They shouldn't be controversial,” he says.

It should be noted that ads for guns – be they from the NRA or Big 5's latest rifle sale – would also run afoul of the new policy, though that provision hasn't been tested yet: Munguia says Community Transit denying ads is quite rare, with only four or so a year being turned down. The number of ads being denied could rise based on the new rules, but so far Ceasefire is the only advertiser to be turned away on account of it.

Asked whether public health announcements from Planned Parenthood may be denied on account of controversy that group stirs up on the right, Munguia left the door open.

“Right now I can't speak about what ads might be denied under this new policy. We're taking an item-by-item approach.

“Certainly we have run ads by Planned Parenthood in the past. We've run ads for Washington Ceasfire in the past, too.”

 
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