25th Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference
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“It’s not about guns, it’s about freedom.”
Froman’s presentation was followed by the annual federal affairs briefing. Leading the panel was John Snyder, who is retiring this year from his post as public affairs director for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA).
Snyder said there is a move in Congress for national concealed carry reciprocity. He said the leader in the House of Representatives is Cliff Stearns from Florida. There is currently a bill in Congress, HR-822, aimed at making this a reality, and it has more than 240 co-sponsors and has had one hearing before an important House subcommittee.
The roadblock to adoption of such legislation, he said, is that “we have a very unfriendly president.”
Snyder also acknowledged the push for “constitutional carry” in several states. This would make it possible for armed citizens to carry either openly or concealed without the necessity of a permit or license.
Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America (GOA), also discussed state reciprocity. This legislation would recognize the “constitutional carry” provisions of the four states that now have it. He noted that a problem recently arose in Ruidoso, NM, where the mayor attempted to impose a gun ban on village property, but was overwhelmingly rebuffed by local residents.
Pratt accurately predicted that the people would tell government “to take a hike.” Pratt was in Ruidoso for a hearing on the mayor’s “edict” during which several people showed up with holstered firearms. The proposal, as Pratt predicted, was rejected several days later.
“Keep it up, guys,” he said. “Disturb them. Make them feel uneasy.”
Chris Knox, communications director for the Firearms Coalition and editor of The Gun Rights War, recalled how his father, the late Neal Knox, recognized that the so-called “gun lobby” consists of organizations and citizens at the grassroots level.
Knox recognized the Appleseed Project volunteers in the audience. They promote rifle marksmanship.
“These are good times for the Second Amendment and gunowners, and gun rights,” Knox stated. “We see state reciprocity, state carry…and good things happening in the courts.”
He suggested repealing the Gun Free School Zones Act, which creates a no-firearms zone around every school. He also wants to see action on the Lautenberg Act, which turns a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence into a Second Amendment prohibition.
“There is so much wrong with this,” he acknowledged, “but of course if we go up and say we just want to repeal it, they say, ‘Well, what, you want wife beaters to have guns?’ And we say ‘No, I want wife beaters to be in jail.’ I want misdemeanor accidents, I want things that are not felonies not to be treated as felonies.
And he wants to see the removal of “sporting purposes” language from federal legislation.
“The Second Amendment is not about sports,” he stated. “The purpose of the Second Amendment is self-defense.”
Mark Barnes, head of Mark Barnes and Associates, is a self-described gun lawyer working as Washington counsel for the CCRKBA, who advised the audience about a looming problem that will require grassroots help.
He said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is an “anti-gun professional” who served in the Clinton administration as point man on gun control initiatives. He said President Clinton knew how to manipulate people, and the strategy of the Clinton era was “supply reduction.” He said “our adversaries” are trying to reduce the supply of firearms and ammunition.
Barnes said the government works for us, not the other way around. Clinton adopted policies that crippled firearms importation, and implemented a series of regulations that did not require ratification by Congress. He warned that the government has “a series of international agreements” in progress that gun rights leaders are currently fighting on the international level.
He said the public needs to advise the administration that such agreements will not be tolerated. CCRKBA will post a resolution on its website that it wants Congress to adopt, to express the “sense of Congress” that the United States should refrain from elevating over domestic law trans-national treaty laws that have not been voted on by Congress. It is imperative, he explained, to put the Obama administration on notice that “we are watching” and that no such treaties that restrict the supply of firearms and related products.
State Briefing 1
This year’s GRPC had a first: Two state legislative affairs briefings with different panels. The first was led by Hawaii State Sen. Sam Slom, the only Republican in that state’s senate out of 25 seats. He told the audience that activists need a sense of humor, and that “right now we are at the tipping point, not only in our nation, but in our states.”
“When all is said and done, it’s up to you, and you, and me in our states and our localities…to elect…the people who make these changes and make the policies,” Slom said.
He said the past year has not offered much negative legislation because the governments are broke, so there is no money to implement new initiatives. Slom noted that people are angry and concerned, and that many are reading the constitution.
“The time to stand up is right now,” he said, reminding the audience that “It’s not about guns, it’s about freedom.”
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA), recalled how the Firearms Owners Identification Card was created in the Prairie State back in the late 1960s. The FOID card was an alternative to registration of all firearms in the state. He recalled that it was “a horrible and terrible time to go through,” but it changed him into a gun rights activist.
Now, Pearson is locked in a battle over concealed carry in Illinois, against a legislative machine that is run out of Chicago.
Instead of fighting the battles in the legislature, Pearson said the fight has been taken to the courts “to see if we could get redress of our grievances.”
Pearson stressed working together, belonging to other organizations, being involved across state lines and networking with other activists. Pearson’s philosophy right now is that an attack on any firearm is an attack on all firearms.
Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) in Massachusetts, discussed a problem with the state Supreme Judicial Court that apparently continues to cite laws that are no longer on the books. He said gunowners have put the question to the State Legislature about what should be done with the state’s highest court that “doesn’t even know the law.”
He recalled that GOAL initially started as an aggressive “bulldog” type of organization. But over the years, GOAL has learned how to turn issues to its advantage by not allowing the press or anyone else to set the agenda.
Last year, he said, gun rights activists deemed the governor’s one-gun-a-month bill as “The Lawful Citizens Imprisonment Act.” The legislature and the media hated the term. Wallace also said the proposal profiled people, at which point lawmakers dropped the bill and it died.
John Cushman, a member of the NRA board of directors and president of SAFE in New York, reminded the audience that New York has the oldest gun permit system in the nation. He predicted that by the time the current legislature adjourns, at least 250 gun-related bills will have been filed for consideration.
Cushman said that he battles not for gun rights, but for everyone’s right to choose whether they will exercise the right to keep and bear arms. He noted that over the past eight years, his organization has trained 900 women in the proper use of firearms.
“Women and the elderly are the highest two groups of people for getting mugged, beaten up,” he said.
His advice is to recruit more women into the shooting arena, because they can stick up for their gun rights from a different perspective. Cushman further recommended to activists that they get involved in local politics first. That’s where future state-level politicians get their start, so that as time passes, those individuals will know who the activists are.
Cushman’s other tidbit: Recruit new activists to carry on with the work of the current generation. “This is an issue that goes way beyond one generation or another,” he said.
Rounding out the first state panel was Jim Irvine, president of the Buckeye Firearms Association. An airline pilot, he thanked SAF and CCRKBA, and particularly Gottlieb, for having planted the seed that became the armed pilot movement 10 years ago, right after the 9/11 attacks.
He encouraged gun rights activists to work with politicians, noting that educating people can produce good results. In Ohio, gun rights leaders have worked with Gov. John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine, who had previous histories of hostility toward the Second Amendment, but who have so far kept their word about firearms issues. Kasich has signed a couple of pro-gun bills this year, including one that fixed the state’s onerous “car carry” statute.
It is also now possible to carry a gun into an establishment that serves alcohol, so long as the armed citizen does not drink.
Irvine also wants to change the Ohio “concealed handgun” license to a “concealed weapon” license, recognizing that knives are also arms. In addition, he wants to change Ohio law to allow people to keep guns in their cars while they are at work.
Irvine suggested to activists who use e-mail lists to link those addresses with physical street addresses. This way, he explained, activist groups can target people in specific districts and contact them via e-mail during election periods and at other times when their energies can be utilized to influence specific officials.
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