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Stop Handgun Violence sign to be removed

The sign on the Mass. Turnpike near Fenway Park on Dec. 13, 2013.David L. Ryan/Globe staff/file

It made it past 78,000 — the approximate number of people in the United States killed by guns since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting — before the lights went out.

The billboard on the Massachusetts Turnpike near Fenway Park is finally coming down, after 20 years sending messages supporting strong gun laws.

“The counter is off. It’s a sad day,” said John Rosenthal, cofounder of Stop Handgun Violence, the nonprofit group that has sponsored the messages on the side of the Lansdowne Street parking garage since 1995.

Rosenthal, a real estate developer, once owned the garage. He sold it to the Fenway Sports Group, the parent company of the Red Sox, in 2013.

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He had expected the 252-foot billboard would have to come down in April or May. It was finally unplugged this week.

Rosenthal said the Red Sox have their own plans for the site, which catches the eyes of 150,000 drivers daily. A Fenway Sports Group spokesman confirmed that the sign transition will soon take place. John Henry, the principal owner of Fenway Sports Group, also owns the Globe.

Anticipating the sign’s removal, Rosenthal’s group launched a new campaign in March on billboards statewide that drew criticism. The signs have since come down.

Rosenthal’s not done, however. He said when he finishes construction on the Fenway Center, a mixed-use project, he will put up a new one.

“That one will be permanent,” he said. “I hate not having that billboard anymore.”

Steve Annear