The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C.
A Surf City gun shop owner said a cable company was wrong to pull commercials featuring semi-automatic weapons.
Surf City Guns and Ammo has been running ads on Time-Warner Cable for several months. Those ads have been successful in bringing customers into the store, shop owner Dorthy Royal said.
That came to an end in late December when Time-Warner Cable pulled advertising for gun shops, pawn shops and gun shows that featured semi-automatic rifles. The decision came after the December mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 school children were killed, said Keith Poston, the company's director of communications for Eastern North Carolina.
“This was done out of respect for the victims' families so we pulled from the air all advertising featuring the weapons used to kill the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” he said, adding that the commercials were temporarily removed during Christmas, which gave the company time to develop a standing policy. The new policy is to prohibit all ads depicting semi-automatic weapons or guns being pointed at people.
Royal said she was OK with the initial temporary hold on the commercials out of respect and because her shop was closed several days over the holidays. But she feels the new policy is a violation of her right to free speech.
Poston said the First Amendment applies to the government and his company has the right to refuse to air any material it believes to be inappropriate.
Time-Warner would be happy to run ads from Surf City Guns that are edited to meet the new guidelines, he said.
Royal said she is not interested in running watered down ads with pink pistols.
“I want to run the ads I want to run; they want us to use pink pistols and T-shirts,” she said. “It's not fair that they are telling us what to put in our commercials. We sell legal products that good people buy.”
Royal said prime time programming features plenty of guns.
Poston said programming choices are up to viewers, but which commercials run during them are not.
“Viewers make a conscious choice to watch particular TV programs and movies,” he said, adding that Time-Warner provides ratings tools and parental control features. But customers don't choose the advertising that airs during a particular show, so it's appropriate for Time-Warner to have such a policy.
Royal said the commercials she wants to air depict responsible, legal gun ownership so she doesn't understand why the ads no longer fit on Time-Warner Cable.
“If it's essential to a business owner to show this kind of imagery in their commercials, there are other advertising options in the marketplace,” Poston said.
Royal said she has already chosen alternative advertising including billboards and social media, but laments the loss of the TV spots.
She said that the business has received calls and emails of support since posting about the situation on its Facebook page. She said there is a middle ground in the gun debate that isn't being serviced by the national rhetoric: responsible gun owners.
Royal said her shop is proudly participating in today's Gun Appreciation Day, a national grassroots event to celebrate and show support for gun ownership.
“We want people to come here,” she said. “We'd love for that happen. There are people here all the time who share a love of guns. It's part of our culture.”