North Carolina

Debated NC billboard removed days after mass killings, but gun store savors notoriety

Cherokee Guns’ billboard mocks three liberal congresswomen

NC gun store, Cherokee guns mocks AOC and three other congresswomen. People took to social media to express their support or distaste of the message.
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NC gun store, Cherokee guns mocks AOC and three other congresswomen. People took to social media to express their support or distaste of the message.

A North Carolina gun shop’s controversial billboard criticizing four liberal congresswomen was removed Monday, days after two deadly mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

Cherokee Guns in Murphy posted a statement on its website Monday acknowledging the sign had come down, but said the billboard had already made its anti-socialist point. Murphy is about 240 miles west of Charlotte, in Cherokee County.

“The Socialist 4 Horsemen message went nationwide very quickly... and the positive support received was, and is really amazing,” the store’s website says.

“Of course, you have those in their parents’ basements trying to put a spin on the real message. To those... maybe I will do another ‘Idiots’ billboard for you,” said the post.

The billboard was replaced with another advertisement from Cherokee Guns, focused on the First Amendment, according to WTVC. The new billboard says “First Amendment. Enough Said. Cherokee Guns,” according to the station.

The change occurred days after 31 people were killed, and more than 50 were injured, in separate mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

Some 2,000 moms and activists in Washington, D.C. for the annual Moms Demand Action conference gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to protest gun violence prompted by two mass shootings over the weekend. "Not one more," they shouted.

The original billboard said “The Four Horsemen Cometh,” with the word cometh covered with a large red slash and the words “are idiots” intentionally scribbled beneath it, McClatchy news group reported.

It also said “Signed, the Deplorables. Cherokee Guns,” sandwiched around pictures of Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. They are also known as “The Squad,” CNN reported.

A salesperson for the gun shop said the billboard was not removed because of the mass shootings but because of death threats posted online, according to WDEF.

In addition to the billboard, the threats prompted the store to take down its Facebook page, on advice from the Secret Service and the FBI, WTVC reported.

Prior to that, a Cherokee Guns employee told McClatchy the shop’s owner left them cue cards should any “threatening liberals” come through the door.

“Show them the door, or your gun, and tell them they can buy their own billboard and pay for it like I did,” the staff member said in the interview.

Cherokee Guns is owned by Steven “Doc” Wacholz, according to the Citizen-Times.

A salesman for Allison Outdoor Advertising, which owns the billboard, said he regretted the controversy.

“Freedom of speech is a right. Unless it is something illegal or offensive, we use our best judgment and let it go. It is tragic what happened. He has been a great client of ours for a while, he just has his beliefs,” Danny Coleman said, CNN reported. “I wish it hadn’t happened. I didn’t want to hurt anybody.”

After the initial controversy sparked by the billboard, the store said it would distribute identical bumper stickers to those who visited the store and ate a piece of bacon and vowed to vote for President Donald Trump in 2020, according to McClatchy newsgroup. Money given for the stickers will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, the gun store said on its website.

“Snowflakes and Liberals are not eligible,” said the store’s Facebook post.

A store employee said the billboard had nothing to do with the race, but was a matter of putting “the face of socialism out there so the American people can get a good look at it,” according to a Facebook post.

News of the controversy caused some of the politicians targeted by the billboard to respond.

How the hell is this not inciting violence?” Tlaib asked on Twitter.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley responded to the billboard with a tweet: “Racist rhetoric from the occupant of the White House has made hate our new normal. We are still vulnerable.”

This is not the first time the store, founded in 2012, has had a controversial billboard up in Murphy. Earlier this month, the shop posted photos of another that featured a muscular Donald Trump flexing his arms in front of a U.S. flag.

“No collusion. No Obstruction. Just Guns!!! One mile on the right,” said the billboard.

President Trump condemned racism and white supremacy following the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas.

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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.