31 May 2008

Why It Has Become Elitist To Support Firearms Restrictions

Hell yes! We have been saying this for years. I could make jokes about brie-eating, wine sipping anti-gun elitists -- but I like brie and am a wine aficionado. Bottom line -- generalizations don't work.

But guess what? The major alternative newspaper in Columbus, The Other Paper, just published a piece on this very subject, entitled "Gun Shy."

It is a pretty decent look at the state of self defense and firearms rights in Ohio, and the elitist forces that think its okay to strip somone else of their rights -- all because the do-gooders don't like something that is legal, and because the basic human right of self defense has a place in society.

"It’s been a tough couple of years for Toby Hoover. More than three decades ago, her first husband was murdered during a hardware store robbery, and since then, she’s fought to spread the message that putting more guns into more hands would make Ohio a violent and scary place to live. You might think that Hoover, as a victim, would be someone a politician could safely rally behind. But as NRA-backed legislation that would loosen Ohio’s gun laws moved through the Statehouse this week, Hoover’s phone has stayed pretty quiet.

“They’re not asking my opinion—they’d rather skirt the issue during election season,” said Hoover, a Toledo native and director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. Hoover has spent the better part of the last 30 years fighting laws that make it easier for people to carry guns in Ohio—including the state’s concealed-carry law, which was signed in 2004. Since then, her coalition has unsuccessfully pushed for measures that would require background checks for all who purchase weapons at private gun shows, as well as efforts to child-proof guns, keep them out of juveniles’ hands and allow local governments to pass gun violence prevention laws."

No one believes her any more. Her shrill warnings of blood soaked streets and children finding guns on park benches and under their beds never rang true. What's more -- none of it materialized.

I first saw Ms. Hoover in action during a televised debate on public television in Columbus. WOSU-TV's Viewpoint program pitted her and Ellen Wickham, an occasional contributor to The Ready Line and, at the time, women's issues chair for Peoples Rights Organization (PRO). Ellen essentially had this woman for lunch. Ms. Hoover, when confronted with a question she could not -- or did not want -- to answer, would say "well, I don't have statistics on that, but let me say this . . . " and would attempt to re-direct the conversation. Ms. Wickham explained quite eloquently how no one had the right to take away her rights. It was no contest.

Most recently, during testimony before the Ohio Senate Criminal Justice Committee, Ms. Hoover was asked point-blank about her fanatical warnings in previous years, and how none of her predictions of spikes in shootings, and children dying from guns lying around have come true. From her facial expression and lack of immediate response, it was clear she was stunned. Someone who typically well prepared, and frankly, has often been a worthy opponent (though I disagreed with both her message and her methods to deliver it), she had nothing to say.

"(Ohio Gov. Ted) Strickland may have had his finger on the pulse of the common man back in 1994. During his first term in Congress, Strickland voted against President Clinton’s Brady Bill and assault weapons ban while most of his Democratic colleagues in the Congress supported it. That November, Republicans swept out the congressional Democrats—including Strickland himself, who won his seat back two years later. Although Hoover and other anti-gun activists say that only a small fraction of voters pick a candidate based on their Second Amendment
views, Strickland blames his party’s stance on gun control for the loss.

“From my perspective, there is a growing recognition of the validity and the importance of Second Amendment rights than existed 10 years ago,” Strickland said. Party leadership has recognized that pushing the gun control agenda resulted in the ’94 loss of Congress—and not regaining it until a dozen years later. As a result, Strickland said, “Nationally there is a greater tolerance for rights of gun owners within the party.”

That's true. Though the leadership among democrats nationally through their many anti self defense measures obviously opposes the rights of a woman to defend her children using a firearm, many rank and file democrat lawmakers at the state level have come around.

"Ohio firearms supporters have recently shared Clinton’s characterization of the anti-gun crowd. “It’s very elitist to tell people what rights you think we should have,” said Jim Irvine, the group’s (Buckeye Firearms Association) director. Most politicians and urban dwellers have never handled a gun and therefore have an unnecessary fear of firearms.“Mayor Coleman doesn’t know which end of a gun the bullet comes out of,” Irvine said. But firearms could go a long way to protect law-abiding residents from crime.

“Criminals are lazy. They go after the easy targets,” he said. There may not be a deer at Broad and High, but there could just as easily be “a 300-pound 6-foot-tall animal of a person waiting to attack.” The Fraternal Order of Police takes issue with the “elitist” characterization."

I'll bet they do. But with apologies to my many friends who wear the uniform, to my many, many readers who wear a badge, the Fraternal Order of Police needs to remember it is a "salary and benefits bargaining union." It has no right to tell me, or others, what rights I have or can exercise.

Further, at the risk of offending those who wear a uniform, and those who don't but think that police officers walk on water, let me quote a statement I have hard repeated from numerous attorneys: The argument that police deserve special treatment or protection is ludicrous. No one receives a draft card to join the police. No one. It is voluntary. There are dangers that go with the job, and officers know this when they sign up. To strip hard working, law abiding people of their rights because a salary and benefits bargaining union thinks civilian law enforcement is somehow better than civilians, and because they can, stinks. Period.

"In 2005, Columbus City Council passed a citywide assault weapons ban that made it a first degree misdemeanor to buy or sell semiautomatic rifles in the city. The move was praised by the FOP, but the NRA opposed the measure, eventually yanking the 2007 NRA convention from Columbus and moving it to St. Louis."

Yes and no. Council did pass the ban on competition rifles -- calling them tools for killing-- at the same time it was preparing legislation to authorize the purchase of the same items (calling them "patrol rifles") for use in police cruisers. That contradiction aside, to say the move was praised by the FOP is a half-truth. The record shows that then-Capital City Lodge FOP President Leif Bickel, a Franklin County deputy sheriff, did testify on behalf of the ordinance. But it was not supported by the FOP lodge membership. Numerous members of the lodge have told me that no poll was ever taken. No vote was ever taken. And they let Bickel know they were pissed.

Bickel inherited an quiet agreement made between his predecessor and the City of Columbus ahead of the ordinance's introduction. Worse, knowing that the membership had not been queried on this critically important matter, he carried the water for Council members who desperately needed law enforcement support of the questionable ordinance to help convince a skeptical public of the need for buy in.

Not long after the ordinance was introduced and later passed, Deputy Bickel was practically pinned to the wall by his rank and file members (law enforcement officers from Columbus and various Central Ohio departments) during a closed door meeting with FOP Lodge leadership. At issue? The fact that many members owned these same competition rifles for sports use, competition, and as collectors items. They were now going to have to move their firearms out of the county, or take part in the patently unconstitutional registration of their guns. To not comply would have put them in violation of the law. If they were in violation and were found out, they would have lost their jobs -- but worse, they would have lost their 2A rights forever.

Then karma stepped in. Some months later, Bickel lost his re-election bid as president of the lodge. He served as president just the one year. Last year, a statewide general law was passed that puts all firearms regulation anywhere in the State of Ohio under the auspices of the Ohio General Assembly. More succinctly, only state lawmakers can pass gun control. Or loosen existing laws. All local restrictions were, essentially, wiped from the books. While they still exist in local ordinance form, they are not being enforced.

The bottom line? It has become painfully clear for several years now that elitist individuals and organization who believe they are "better" than other people have been pushing for gun control.

Thankfully, fewer and fewer people believe their arguments any more. And people are listening.

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