Native Americans incensed over images on pro-gun billboards

GREELEY, Colo. - Two Greeley billboards on which images of Native Americans are used to make a pro-gun rights argument are causing a stir with some residents who say the image is offensive and insensitive.

The billboards show three men dressed in traditional Native American attire and the words "Turn in your arms. The government will take care of you."

According to the Greeley Tribune, Matt Wells, an account executive with Lamar Advertising, says a group of local residents purchased the space.

Greeley resident Kerri Salazar, who is of Native American descent, says she was livid when she learned about it. She said she doesn't have a problem with the apparently pro-gun rights message, she's offended the Native American people were singled out, apparently without their consent.

7NEWS spoke with representatives from the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners group who say they know the people responsible for the billboard, but would not reveal their identities.

"These are private citizens exercising their First Amendment rights to defend their gun rights," said Cooper Anderson, operations director for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

The billboards are in response to Colorado lawmakers passing bills that restrict the size of gun magazines and require background checks for all sales.

"What of the legislation is taking a gun away from someone?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger.

"Since they're already nervous about government control over their gun rights, they have to wonder what type or legislation will follow after this," said Anderson.

"Is it insensitive to use this image of Native Americans?" asked Zelinger.

"I don't think so because we agree with the message that the billboard's trying to send, in the sense that this is a historical example of where government has stripped people of their gun rights and (they) believe that they have to defend themselves."

"It certainly gets the message across," said Weld County Sheriff John Cooke. "I understand there are some Native Americans that are upset about it and I can see why, but you know, God Bless America, it's freedom of speech and people have a right to put up offensive material."

Cooke talked with 7NEWS after a Loveland event where he was speaking with Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith and El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa. The meeting was to discuss a planned lawsuit by a group of sheriff's against the state of Colorado to have the new gun legislation overturned.

"What message does it send about government suing government?" asked Zelinger.

"Actually, I think it sends a great message because when you have the Democrats in charge of the House and the Senate and the Governor's mansion, they can ramrod any law they want down people's throats," said Cooke.

We asked Cooke if the controversial billboard helps or hurts the push to get the legislation repealed.

"It's certainly getting a lot of publicity and it's causing people to think about it," said Cooke. "They put up a message that they thought would resonate with people and obviously it doesn't resonate with everyone. I have a feeling most people are not going to make up their mind based on a billboard."