Berkeley Mayor Fights Pro-Gun Ad

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A group of mayors from across the nation, including Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, partnered with a federal agency Tuesday to demand a free televised gun control commercial in response to a firearm industry advertisement attacking them.

Dean said the advertisement, funded by the Hunting and Shooting Sports Heritage Fund and the National Shooting Sports Federation, caused gun advocates to send her 77 "fanatical" e-mails.

The Federal Communications Commission's personal attack rule mandates that the media must notify people who are being attacked and give them equal air time to respond.

The e-mails denounced her participation in a mass lawsuit last year that attempted to impose tougher safety standards on gunmakers. Dean had previously received hate mail and was the target of a lawsuit for her participation in the original suit, but the trickle of e-mails became a river after the advertisement aired during the Republican and Democratic conventions.

The television spot, which targeted the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and 28 mayors, featured a hand ripping up an American flag piece by piece.

"We were communicating to the public the political nature of the litigation that has been filed by the administration and big city mayors to destroy the American firearm industry," said Lawrence Keane, a spokesperson for the shooting federation. "They are suing the American firearm industry for an extraordinary sum of money that would cause them bankruptcy."

Dean said that when she heard about the advertisement, she could not believe that any station would carry it.

"I'm simply appalled," she said. "They talk about greedy mayors and describe us as generally evil. I don't understand their motivation."

The spot appeared after the federal government agreed in March to a settlement with Smith and Wesson in which the company, the largest gun manufacturer in the country, agreed to equip all its weapons with safety locks. Gun advocates have called Smith and Wesson, which has a contract with Berkeley, a traitor to the industry.

"It's common sense to put safety locks on guns," Dean said. "It will sure as heck save a lot of lives. We're responsible for the public safety of the community - that's what mayors do."

The gun advocacy federation did not object to the mayors' request to have equal air time.

"We believe that the constitution is sacred and should be protected," Keane said. "We have no problems with them exercising their First Amendment right and running an advertisement. But there is (also) the Second Amendment, and they are taking the individual's right to bear fire arms."

Dean said she does not know when the response to the advertisement will air but that she is eagerly awaiting it.

She has also been involved in banning "junk guns" and creating a tax on all items sold by gun retailers.


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