Oops! Nature Scrambles Cops’ Anti-Gun Message

Kelly O'Donnell PhotoCity 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:

Georgia Kral File PhotoIn 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.

Georgia Kral File PhotoThe 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.

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: robn on March 13, 2014  11:10am

Add Chris Arnott to the list of people who get a whipping on the Green. ;S

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on March 13, 2014  11:15am

I never noticed any of these bumper stickers, but reading this story, to those that can find the humour in the bizarrely high numbers of people shot in New Haven, and the people who have lost their lives, and their families who’s lives are forcibley changed to a negative existence by these acts of violence, well, those that somehow see the humour in this, should keep it to themselves. To think that somehow those in charge of the police department would allow the police cars to carry this message, shows an unbelievable disconnect in understanding to what has happened to so many people in this city. A lack of empathy, and respect, and truly a gross lack of responsible behavior by those in charge of the police department.

posted by: Enough Is Enough on March 13, 2014  12:31pm

I cannot believe the City of New Haven gets seven years out of a police cruiser.  Those must sure be pleasant to ride around in.

posted by: Jones Gore on March 13, 2014  4:03pm

There is less about a dozen of those 7 year old cruisers on the street. They are driven by District Managers.

posted by: RicePaddy on March 14, 2014  8:38am

Sorry to inform you Jones Gore, but more than three-quarters of the current NHPD patrol units ARE 7+ years old which would be roughly 90 units.