Michael Neibauer Staff Reporter- Washington Business Journal
The District is relatively new to legal firearms, so the billboard soon to be placed on a downtown D.C. apartment building may come as a shock, or perhaps, as a welcome sign.
But no matter your worldview on firearms or gun control (or the visceral reaction given recent mass shootings in Wisconsin and Colorado), the advertisement for a Washington-area shooting seminar will be hard to ignore at 50 feet tall and 20 feet wide.
“Hey D.C., it’s time for your first shot,” the billboard will read, according to permit documents. “First Shots, an introduction to shooting.”
The so-called special sign (so-called because only a handful of buildings in the District are allowed to host billboards) will be attached to the Massachusetts House luxury apartments at 1234 Massachusetts Ave. NW, according to a sign permit awarded Aug. 3.
FirstShots.org is an arm of the Newtown, Conn.-based National Shooting Sports Foundation. The organization will host a “big city tour” in the Washington area Aug. 24-28, to give “newcomers an opportunity to give shooting a try.” First Shots partners with gun ranges to offer a “hands-on seminar about the sport of handgun shooting.” Firearms and ammunition will be provided, for those non-gun owners.
“You’ll learn safety,” according to the FirstShots website. “You’ll fire a handgun. You’ll feel the thrill of what millions enjoy as their favorite pastime.”
Of course, none of those ranges are in the District (the sites are in Chantilly, Lorton, Warrenton and Midland in Virginia and Waldorf in Maryland). And buying a gun in D.C., while possible, remains a trial. Also, for most residents, sporting a handgun outside of the home is illegal.
But District residents are allowed to own handguns, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 Heller ruling. Since the Heller decision, the Metropolitan Police Department has registered roughly 2,500 handguns, rifles and shotguns.
Maybe the billboard is more aimed at D.C. commuters than D.C. denizens. But it is a sign of the times.