In an effort to raise awareness about gun trafficking and gun-related violence, Operation LIPSTICK will be partnering with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to post more than 600 advertisements on the city’s subways and buses throughout the month of March.
Operation LIPSTICK, which stands for Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killing, was launched in September 2012 as an offshoot of Citizens for Safety, a non-profit organization formed in 2008 that aims to create safe communities and stop the flow of guns to criminals, said Nancy Robinson, executive director of Citizens for Safety.
“[The goal of the campaign is] to raise awareness of the risks and consequences of buying, hiding and carrying guns for someone who can’t get them legally, and to help women discover their own power to prevent these illegally trafficked guns from being used to take a life,” she said.
Featuring a woman in handcuffs with the caption “His Gun, Your Time — Holding his gun could land you in jail,” the advertisement aims to help women discover their ability to prevent illegally trafficked guns from being used to take a life, Robinson said.
“New research shows women are involved in buying, hiding and holding guns for people who can’t get guns legally,” she said. “We always encourage community residents, the media and elected leaders to ask ‘Where did the gun come from?’ after every shooting to spotlight the source of the gun. Sadly, one of the answers to that question is a woman.”
With active groups in Massachusetts and Northern California, Operation LIPSTICK has trained hundreds of women through workshops and educational forums, and the group’s leaders have collected thousands of pledges from their members vowing not to buy, hide or carry guns for anyone else. Citizens for Safety hopes to expand Operation LIPSTICK to other locations in the future, Robinson said.
“Most shootings in Boston and other urban centers are committed with illegally trafficked guns,” she said. “Sixty percent of Boston’s crime guns come from surrounding states with weaker gun laws. Straw purchasing is the most common way guns are trafficked in.”
MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan said Operation LIPSTICK approached him last fall with their campaign idea.
“We thought it was worthwhile to partner with them because we had great success with awareness campaigns in the past, and we are able to put ads up on our system that are effective,” he said. “The MBTA is an important community partner responsible to citizens and passengers. Already there has been a lot of positive feed back from the news and Boston police.”
Several residents said the Operation LIPSTICK ad campaign could save thousands of lives, but advertisements on public transportation may not be the most effective way to prevent gun trafficking.
Bill Campion, 60, of South Boston, said the partnership between the MBTA and Operation LIPSTICK is an efficient way to get Boston residents to pay attention to the issue of gun trafficking.
“I hope people will pay attention to the ads on buses and subways to benefit all the people in surrounding areas, especially ones affected by previous situations,” he said. “It’s very important for the MBTA to support this campaign because public transportation in Boston is used by most individuals, and the best way to promote this is by some form of transportation.”
Jeff Guillaume, 29, of Dorchester, said the advertisements should open the eyes of women who do not see the risks associated with gun trafficking, but it may not be effective.
“In these situations, it is tough because women don’t realize the consequences of things like this,” he said.
Lissi Almeida, 24, of Dorchester, said the advertisements campaign will not relieve women from the pressures they feel to take part in the gun trafficking industry.
“I don’t believe that the advertising of this movement around public transit will be effective in stopping women from purchasing guns for men,” she said. “The pressures they feel from men are far greater than their willpower to say no.”