City cops found themselves driving around town with this message to the public: “I’d rather be shooting a gun.”
That was the inadvertent outcome of an anti-gun violence campaign launched on bumper stickers many moons ago, back in 2007.
The message faded with time—and came to articulate just the opposite of what its creators had intended.
The police department vowed to remove the message from police cruisers after a state representative notified them of it Wednesday.
Here’s how the gun-toting message came about:
In 2007, the police department ran a competition for members of the public to come up with catchy slogans against gun violence. The staff of the now-defunct New Haven Advocate ran a story offering some slogans as a joke, according to Christopher Arnott, who was then the managing editor.
“I’d rather NOT be shooting a gun,” read one proposal.
It was a spinoff on other bumper-stickers that read “I’d rather be riding my horse” or “I’d rather be on the tennis court,” recalled Arnott (who currently writes for the Independent, among other publications), who came up with the wording.
Joe Avery, the police spokesman at the time, read the story. He liked the slogan so much he asked the Advocate to submit it, for real. Matt Ford, the Advocate’s production manager, did the design. The Advocate proposal won.
The police department printed out the slogan and slapped it on 60 police cars that regularly patrol the streets.
Fast forward to 2014. After seven years, the red-inked “NOT” faded away.
Yale graduate student Kelly O’Donnell spotted a cruiser on downtown Elm Street with the message: “I’d rather be shooting a gun.”
“Does that say what I think it says?” she recalled asking her friends. They followed the car for a couple of blocks to get a better look.
She snapped a photo with her cell phone.
A friend posted her photo on Facebook.
“#brandingfail,” remarked one commenter.
East Rocker Stephen Poland notified several alders and state Rep. Roland Lemar of the message.
“I have a quick issue raised by a constituent. ... NHPD Patrol car has a bumper sticker that reads ‘I’d rather be shooting a gun right now’—I don’t want this to turn into a huge issue, but it really, really needs to be removed ASAP,” wrote Lemar in an email to several top police brass at 12:21 p.m. Wednesday.
“I have assigned someone immediately. Thank you,” replied Police Chief Dean Esserman at 3:22 p.m.
Lt. Jeff Hoffman, commander of patrol, said Wednesday afternoon that officers will promptly remove bumper stickers that have been similarly defaced by Mother Nature.
Arnott, a lifelong pacifist, said the surprise message switch-up was totally “unanticipated.”
Arnott said he still has a stack of stickers in his basement with the red ink intact.
“I would be willing to offer some to the department” to correct the scrambled message, he said. “That happened to our” car, too.