Mass. Pike drivers, Red Sox fans, and Lansdowne Street nightclub revelers were taken aback in 2004 when they read, on the giant billboard placed by the activist group Stop Handgun Violence: “Welcome to Massachusetts: You’re More Likely to Live Here.” That tribute to the state’s tough gun laws was one of the rare occasions when the billboard had good news to report. Sadly, the story of handgun violence in the United States, relentlessly depicted over two decades on the billboard, has been anything but uplifting.
Now the billboard is operating on borrowed time. It hangs from the garage owned by John Rosenthal, co-founder of Stop Handgun Violence. But he sold the building to the Red Sox last year and, under terms of the sale, the billboard has to go by next March. Mayor Walsh is wisely joining the search for a new home for this important message — jarring in its forcefulness, fearless in its willingness to offer images of childhood victims of gun violence, and increasingly important in a nation that’s almost completely lost its ability to control deadly weapons.