HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 00-225
Further Information: For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685 Tuesday
Or contact your local HUD office August 22, 2000


WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo joined Mayors Joseph Ganim of Bridgeport, Connecticut - Co-Chair of the US Conference of Mayors Gun Violence Task Force, James Sills of Wilmington, Delaware, and Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell (via telephone), Cleveland Police Chief Martin Flask, Newark Police Chief Anthony Ambrose and Washington D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey at the National Press Club today to condemn the gun industry's $10 million advertisement attack on the patriotism and personal integrity of the local and national officials who have tried to hold the industry accountable for its actions.

The mayors are seeking to have a response advertisement - to be voiced by actor Martin Sheen - aired by the broadcasters and cable-casters that ran the National Shooting Sports Foundation/Hunting and Shooting Sports Heritage Foundation (NSSF) ads.

The NSSF ad wrongly accuses the Clinton Administration and "big city mayors" of stripping Americans of their right to bear arms. The campaign includes at least one sixty-second (:60) advertisement which ran numerous times during both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions and contains the following language, " we…the makers of America's firearms…are being blamed for crime violence by this administration and big city mayors whose greedy lawyers are using your tax dollars to sue us for criminals they won't prosecute."

The mayors are part of a group of 33 communities that have filed suit in an attempt to force the gun industry to take responsibility for the guns they manufacture - making them safer and keeping them out of the hands of children and criminals.

In a letter to broadcasters and cable-casters requesting an opportunity to respond to this personal attack, the mayors write that "Most deplorable of all, the ad deliberately makes these charges against a visual background depicting a "big city mayor" desecrating the American flag.

This ad constitutes a direct attack on our character, our honesty and our love of country. These are precisely the kind of unwarranted personal attacks that the FCC's rule seeks to remedy." The letter is signed by Mayor William Campbell, Atlanta, Georgia; Mayor Joseph Ganim, Bridgeport, Connecticut; Mayor Clarence Harmon, St. Louis, Missouri; Mayor Michael White, Cleveland, Ohio; Mayor Sharpe James, Newark, New Jersey; Mayor Scott King, Gary, Indiana; Mayor Shirley Dean, Berkeley, California; Mayor James Sills, Wilmington, Delaware; Mayor Jimmie Yee, Sacramento, California.

The Mayors are requesting the air time for a response ad under the Federal Communication Commission's "Personal Attack Rule." The personal attack rule is a long-standing doctrine in telecommunications law intended to promote fairness in the broadcast arena where strong, personal reputational interests are at stake. Specifically, the rule requires media licensees, first, to notify and provide a transcript to individuals or identifiable groups when a broadcast subjects them to a personal attack on an issue of public importance and controversy. Second, the media licensees must provide the subject of the attack an opportunity to respond. The Mayors also indicated that they would file a formal complaint with the FCC if they did not receive an opportunity to respond.

"It is shameful that the gun industry has chosen to spend $10 million throwing mud and ducking responsibility rather than saving lives," said Cuomo. "The American people are crying out for their leaders to take action and make the gun manufacturers act responsibly. The Million-Mom March and the public outrage over shootings in our schools are clear evidence of this. Now, instead of following the leadership of Smith & Wesson, the rest of the gun manufacturers have instead invested millions of dollars in an ad campaign that is a direct personal attack on the brave public servants who are taking a stand on this exigent issue. That is $10 million dollars not being spent to make guns safer, not being used to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children."

Actor Martin Sheen, whose enormous body of work in film and television is only equaled by his passionate support for causes he believes in, has stepped forward to provide the voice for the response ad, which is being produced by the Handgun Control Inc., The Center to Prevent Handgun Violence. The gun lobby used Sheen's brother, to do the voice-over on the NSSF commercial prompting many to believe that the voice was Sheen's.

"I want to set the record straight and place the gun makers' despicable deception on notice," said Sheen. "Their cheap shot has backfired and will not go unchallenged. They have used my brother as so much fodder and compromised his integrity. If the gun makers case against the Administration and this nation's city mayors is so just, why would they stoop to such shoddy and deceptive tactics including voice identification theft? No one within the sound of my voice can question my personal commitment to non-violence and social justice issues including gun safety. And while gun makers have clearly tried to usurp my credibility in an underhanded effort to deceive the public, they have only succeeded in bringing about more shame on themselves and their industry."

Note to editors: You can view the NSSF ad on their website at


Mayor Marc Morial of New Orleans: "This television campaign is both despicable and anti-American. The mayors of this nation have a responsibility to ensure the public safety of our citizens. How can we begin to meet that responsibility when a five-year-old is as capable of using a gun as a 25-year-old? Aspirin comes in a child proof bottle. Cars have seat belts and airbags. But anyone can just point and shoot a gun. We must continue or efforts to end the violence that has brought our nation to a silent fear. We want guns made safer."

Scott King, Mayor of Gary Indiana whose 17 year-old nephew was a victim of handgun violence, said "The recent spate of television advertisements on behalf of the gun industry are, in my view, inappropriate and inaccurate in so far as they suggest that anyone that advocates for greater responsibility on the part of their industry to reduce the unacceptable rates of injury and death resulting from handguns is, somehow, unpatriotic." He went on to say, "Notwithstanding the intensity of my views on this issue, I have not and will not impugn the patriotism of those that have different views from mine. As our country moves forward in debate regarding this issue, I would hope that attacks such as these ads are not the means by which opponents of reasonable handgun safety measures express themselves as it detracts from the dialog necessary to reduce the killing and maiming of Americans."

Mayor Jimmie Yee Sacramento, California: "On March 23, 1999, the Sacramento City Council voted, on behalf of the more than 400,000 residents of our City, to initiate civil liability litigation against the firearms industry. Sacramento's action has always intended to create safer neighborhoods in our City. By resolution, our City Council said that our action was not to promote gun control, seek monetary damages or otherwise destroy legitimate businesses." He continued, "Sacramento's action was to compel gun manufacturers to understand that their products leave in their wake unnecessary death and destruction, pain, bereavement, grief, fear and shattered neighborhoods in our City. We will not back away from this objective."

Mayor Joseph Ganim of Bridgeport, CT: "This is clearly an act of desperation by the gun manufacturing industry. How else can you explain the wasting of $10 million dollars on advertising that insults those who served this country solely for the purpose of avoiding responsibility for the weapons they manufacture. To infer that the effort to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and children, and to make the weapons safer through design is unpatriotic and is proof positive the gun manufacturing industry is realizing the hopelessness of their argument."

St. Louis Mayor Clarence Harmon: "These ads constitute a direct attack on my character, my honesty, my love of country, and my responsibility for the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the City of St. Louis. They attack not only my integrity, but allege that I, and the other mayors, will not prosecute criminals. As a former police chief of the City of St. Louis, and now as mayor, I have a thirty-year record of bringing criminals to justice. The gun lobby invokes the memory of our nation's warriors, and wraps itself in their flag. It implies that I betray all that our veterans fought for. As a veteran, I find this tactic repugnant. I served to defend our children from the same terrors that the gun manufacturers visit upon them every day. I am joining the other mayors in demanding equal time from the television stations and networks to rebut and counter these unfounded attacks."

Mayor Shirley Dean of Berkeley, CA: "This is just the latest attempt by the gun lobby to draw attention away from the real issue at hand: the gun industry's failure to take common sense actions to make their products safer. What's worse, this ad crosses the line of honest debate and enters the area of personal attack. If they think that questioning the patriotism of the Mayors and this Administration will cause us to back down, they are sadly mistaken. It has only strengthened our resolve to fight for our constituents and reduce gun violence."

Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White: "There surely is a role that gun manufacturers have played in times of war. But it is tough to swallow a campaign that compares the innocent children senselessly gunned down on city streets to major war battles. The battles they cite were fought by consenting adults to protect freedom and individual liberty. That's a far cry from the freedom and individual liberty lost by gun violence on America's streets. Our citizens can see right through that nonsense."

Handgun Control Inc. and the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence Legal Director Dennis Henigan: "There is nothing patriotic about making it easy for kids and criminals to get guns, and there is nothing unpatriotic about challenging the industry to do so."


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