A Terre Haute, Ind., newspaper issued an apology Sept. 22 for publishing a firearms dealer’s advertisement that featured an AR-15 style rifle the previous day.
The wrap-around ad was on the front page of the Tribune-Star and paid for by Top Guns, a Terre Haute firearms store. The ad depicted the words “Beto Special” above an AR-15-style rifle with the Greek words “ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ” for anglicized to “Molon Labe” underneath the rifle.
The Tribune-Star publisher posted an apology to readers on its Facebook page that said the ad “did not meet the paper’s standards for advertising content. The ad should not have been published.”
The publisher could not be reached for comment by America’s 1st Freedom.
A follow-up explanation was then published online by the newspaper’s editor, who explained that while the ad was “lawful in every respect,” it “did not meet the Tribune-Star’s advertising content standard. The paper should have refused to run the ad with the objectionable language.”
The language in question, according to the article, was “Beto Special,” a reference to Democratic presidential candidate Robert “Beto” O’Rourke saying, “Hell yes we’re going to take your AR-15” at a presidential debate in September (O’Rourke had shirts made with the phrase) and “ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ,” a Greek phrase that roughly translates to “Come and take them.” The phrase originated in ancient Greece as King Leonidas’ response to Xerxes, who demanded the Greeks lay down their weapons and surrender.
According to the Tribune-Star, “the ad did not meet the paper’s standard of tone and language” and “could be perceived by readers as a threat to O’Rouke’s [sic] safety. And indeed it was interpreted that way by many readers even if that was not the purpose.”
“We had a contract with them [for the front-page advertising],” Steve Ellis, owner of Top Guns, told America’s 1st Freedom. “They [newspaper advertising representatives] walked into the store three times [to sell that ad space].”
He said he offered to remove the “Beto” text from the ad, but the newspaper staff refused. “They don’t want a gun on the front page,” he said. “They don’t want to do it.”
He wondered what the newspaper representatives expected he would advertise when they walked into a gun store and took his money?
The “Beto Special” ad was not Top Guns’ first ad in the Tribune-Star. Also, Ellis said he isn’t the first firearms dealer to use this special, but noted that in anticipation of the sale, Top Guns ordered an increased quantity of AR-15-style rifles to coincide with the ads that were being run in the Tribune-Star.
The community “came out in droves to support Top Guns,” Ellis said, adding that it has been “overwhelming” to see the amount of people who reached out online to support the store in response to the newspaper’s statements.
Top Guns opened in 2012 and moved to its current 52,000 sq. ft. location in 2017. It features the largest showroom and indoor range in the Midwest with 18 shooting lanes between its three ranges, a climbing wall, a stage for live music and a pizzeria all under the same roof.