23rd Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference
by Dave Workman
Supporting that notion, the first conference panel addressed federal affairs. Joe Waldron, former executive director of the CCRKBA and currently board member, observed, “Everybody knows how critical this election will be.”
“We know what 'reasonable regulation' means...”
Acknowledging that a number of Democrats are pro-gun, he added that “there are a lot of Democrats out there who claim to be pro-gun who are not.”
“When push comes to shove,” he said, “party ideology trumps your civil rights.”
Waldron criticized people who claim their vote doesn’t count. He urged the audience to be involved politically, and become grassroots activists. Alluding to Obama as “a $5,000 empty suit,” he told activists to go home, talk to fellow gunowners about the importance of this year’s election, and “make sure every one of them gets out there and votes on election day.”
John Velleco with Gun Owners of America (GOA) followed Waldron and told the crowd that the “gun issue has shifted dramatically.” He noted how anti-gun Democrats have evolved into pro-gunners, if only for appearances’ sake. His biggest applause came when he criticized as being crazy “people who don’t allow teachers and adult students to carry concealed firearms for their own defense.”
He said gun rights activists need to “be smarter.”
“Pro-gunners were playing an honest game of checkers,” Velleco observed, “and anti-gunners were cheating at chess.”
Lead ban threat
Patrick Walker, a board member of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association (NMLRA), cautioned the audience that the Second Amendment is a right that is “subject to reasonable restrictions” under the Heller ruling.
“We know what ‘reasonable regulation’ means,” he said.
He is concerned that proposed bans or restrictions on the use of lead projectiles could dramatically alter blackpowder shooting. California banned lead bullets in some areas “all because some stupid scavenger bird swooped down and consumed a lead bullet.” He was referring to a California condor, and now the use of lead projectiles is banned in areas known to be inhabited by the birds.
There are also problems with language in various pieces of legislation that aim to ban or restrict the use of .50-caliber rifles. A blanket regulation would ban muzzleloaders in that category, and today’s crop of front-stuffers would be affected.
NRA’s Charles Cunningham, director of federal affairs, offered details on how Democrats have been voting on legislation to “improve” the National Instant Check System. He noted that the financial crisis had paralyzed Capitol Hill, and that prior to the Wall Street meltdown, a strong piece of legislation was passed as substitute language for a bill originally introduced by delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. The substitute measure strips the District city council from adopting its own anti-gun ordinances.
On the horizon, he said, are decisions on whether concealed carry will be legalized in national parks, and a court challenge to bans on gun ownership in public housing. There is also a reform measure aimed at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Cunningham called them a “rogue agency” that is “crying out for reform.”
Switching from federal to state affairs, the second panel of the conference attacked problems in several states. Landis Aden, president of the Arizona State Rifle Association, discussed open carry and concealed carry, emphasizing a continued problem over packing guns in restaurants. A bill to resolve the problem passed the legislature but was vetoed by Democrat Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Scott Bach, president of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs and a member of the NRA board of directors, continued the activism theme, warning the audience that “complacency is the enemy.” He said the problem American gunowners face is that liberals are “moving out of the big cities and infecting the towns.”
These liberals are typically anti-gunners and they can change the balance of government in small communities, all the way up to the congressional level. In New Jersey, he said politicians ban everything “as a default position” and then decide what guns are legal. The Garden State, he lamented, “has licensing and registration…possibly the most intrusive law in the country.”
“The only thing more intrusive,” he quipped, “is a colonoscopy.”
Ken Hanson, legislative director of the Buckeye Firearms Association in Ohio, said his state has enjoyed 18 good months of activity, in the legislature and in the courts. The most recent victory was when the Ohio Supreme Court knocked down local ordinances that prohibit concealed handguns in certain places, on the grounds that firearms regulation is a state authority issue.
The state has passed a stand-your-ground law and has reformed the concealed carry statute. There is also a new law providing for the awarding of mandatory attorney fees for anyone whose gun is unlawfully seized by the police.
Out in California, there have been some recent noteworthy wins, according to attorney Chuck Michel. The victory over San Francisco’s handgun ban was a good step, and now the NRA and CCRKBA are in a lawsuit against a gun ban in the city’s public housing units. Making his job easier have been some California politicians, primarily in San Francisco, who have allowed their strong biases to overrule good sense.
Michel called such politicians “loose cannons.”
Troubles in Illinois
Richard Pearson, executive director of the ISRA, said the campaign will kick off shortly to push for adoption of a concealed carry statute in the Prairie State. Illinois remains one of only two states that do not have some form of concealed carry. Pearson explained that some counties have put the issue on their own ballots.
Alluding to the election, Pearson made it clear that “Senator Obama is not your friend.” Pearson has had personal legislative experience with the Democratic presidential nominee, and it was not good. He also warned activists in the Southwest to keep up their guard.
“If you think this gun control movement will not come to Arizona,” he stated, “they’re already here and working.”
As Bach had earlier cautioned, gun prohibitionists are moving to other states from the East, and one of their favorite places to land is Arizona. Because of this migration of anti-gunners, Pearson urged activists to get involved with their state and local gun rights groups.
Back in Massachusetts, gun activists face an uphill battle, added Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners Action League. He sadly noted that in 10 years since the state passed a restrictive gun control package, the number of licensed gunowners in the Bay State has dwindled from 1.5 million to about 225,000. As a result, gun-related homicides are up, as are assaults involving firearms.
This all stems, he said, from a Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling in 1976 that there is no individual right to keep and bear arms under the state constitution.
Wallace said he introduces himself as a “civil rights activist” when he lobbies for gunowners. The idea is to “change the debate” and keep one’s enemies off guard.
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