The 2006 General Election – A Hobson’s Choice for a GOP Gun Owner

By Publius

Ohio has attempted to pass liberalized firearms laws for over a decade, always under Republican-controlled administrations. This 12+ years of Republican “leadership” resulted in Ohio being one of the very last states to adopt concealed carry, while also having the distinction of being the worst “shall issue” concealed carry law in the United States. As we have attempted to improve our poison-pilled law this General Assembly session, we have once again done so while battling Republican “leadership” every step of the way.

It is time to speak plainly – Ohio’s Republican leadership is anti-gun, despite the occasional Kerry-esque protestations to the contrary.

A quick review of the cast of characters over the past 12 years shows who our greatest hurdles were – Governor George Voinovich, House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, Senate President Doug White, Governor Bob Taft. With the Ohio Senate postponing action on H.B. 347 until after the fall elections, a decision that cannot be viewed as benign to gun owner interests, we must now ask: Et tu, Senate President Bill Harris?

I sit here looking at my desk full of various GOP solicitations for money, for help, for ideas, and start to dutifully pick up my pen and checkbook, as I have for the past decade. I have been to two GOP fundraisers this month, volunteered for numerous primary campaigns, I am supposed to help host a fundraiser in a few weeks……...then the thought hits me, what am I doing?

It has been very easy over the past decade to write off GOP obstruction of gun rights legislation as a “leadership” problem. Just wait until next election cycle, just wait, just wait again. It is the leadership, we need another Governor, another Senate President, another House Speaker. So I have dutifully written my checks, posted the yard signs, worked the phone banks, worked the fundraisers, because after all, my local candidate isn’t leadership. It isn’t fair to take it out on the local person, he’s good on my issues, and is a heck of a guy. Why should s/he be punished for the sins of “leadership”?

No more.

Click 'Read More' for the entire op-ed.

One thing I have learned from the past is that all of the things you are supposed to do in a representative form of government, write opinion letters, make calls, vote, support candidates etc., none of it works on leadership. Senate President Harris received over 400 contacts in 5 days demanding that the vote on H.B. 347 be held prior to summer recess. This apparently did not even phase him. Gun owners, as an abstract concept, are not a threat to leadership. The gavel comes with a nice Teflon/asbestos suit.

The reality of Ohio politics over the past 12 years is that GOP leadership is beholden only to the party, as manifested by whoever is sitting in the Governor’s chair and Bob Bennett. It has taken us 4 election cycles just to get a CHOICE for GOP Governor, and we certainly don’t elect Bob Bennett. No, the only people who impact the leadership are the rank and file of the elected party members. They elect the leadership, they support the leadership, they sustain the leadership and they can change the leadership.

The only threat to leadership is the rank and file elected officials. The local GOP candidates that we help out, despite state-level leadership, are the only ones that can impact state-level leadership and force a change.

So I have reached the conclusion that my own local candidates are, in fact, to blame, regardless of how they have voted or how they feel about my issues, for they are the only ones that can exert the pressure to move leadership and have failed to do so.

Leadership is nothing without the local party organizations. Leadership needs the local party groups, not the other way around. When leadership needs something done, they make the calls “down” the phone chain and the local organizations swing into action, often relying on grassroots groups like gun owners. If elected officials, all of whom express strong support for H.B. 347, are not storming Bob Taft’s castle right now to get this passed in both houses before the election, then they are not doing what we need them to do, the one thing that they alone can do – get in leadership’s face. A floor vote in favor of a bill is a token gesture in the dynamics of Ohio politics when the reality is one or two people call all the shots.

We need elected officials who are willing to put the fear into leadership, not vice versa. Let me make is simple for you: The only way to drastically improve Ohio’s gun laws is to radically change GOP leadership in Ohio, and the only way to radically change GOP leadership is to let the rank and file know that they no longer get a free pass for talking a good game and making floor votes. Shaking your head and clucking your tongue over the death of a bill due to “leadership” is disingenuous. You, Mr. Senator, can change that. Senate President obstructing you? Get together with some like-minded individuals in caucus and lead a rebellion. If it doesn’t work in caucus, take it public. Governor going to veto a bill? Great, let him. I’d have respect for you passing a good bill and getting it vetoed. I have no respect for you kowtowing at the altar of politics with my family’s security in the balance.

Actions, not words. I have all the words I have need.

I don’t care if you are a dog catcher or Senator, please do not pick up the phone and call me for help come fall, I won’t be answering the phone until H.B. 347 is law, and I am going to take as many GOP gun owners with me as possible. To my good friends and those who have supported us in the past, I am sincerely sorry. Get on the phone with Taft et al and move H.B. 347, or you’ll be fratricide. That is the reality of gun owner sentiment in Ohio right now.

Do you think GOP “leadership” might start to view things differently if dozens of local candidates call up and say “a long time local volunteer has said they are not helping out with my County Commissioner/State Representative/State Senate race this fall because of YOUR FAILURE to pass this bill. DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR LEADERSHIP IS DOING TO ME?”

Fellow GOP gun owners are aghast when I talk like this. “Why, you’ll hand the elections to the Democrats.” Gee, I hope so. That is the plan, anyway. 12 years of Republican “leadership” has gotten us exactly one flawed bill. “Well, it would have been worse under Democrats.” Really? The largest urban municipalities in Ohio are controlled by anti-gun Democrats, and they have already passed all the gun bans, registrations etc. they could ever want, and people are living under those regulations now. For those fortunate enough to live in a township or county, you have had a free pass, but for the majority, we have already suffered through far more gun control than gun rights in the past 12 years.

That is the reality of the Republican legacy in Ohio for the past 12 years – more gun control than gun rights. I’m more than willing to take my chances with a Democrat power change with the likes of Ted Strickland and Marc Dann at the helm. I have concluded it is the only way I will ever get the attention of Republican “leadership.”

In 1787 a young collection of states was struggling with adopting a constitution. Several of our founding fathers felt strongly enough about the issue to write and publish a series of classic papers urging the adoption of the proposed constitution. This series, commonly referred to as the The Federalist Papers, was attributed to Publius, a general pen name to protect the authors, but also as a tribute to Publius Valerius Publicoa, Roman counsul largely credited with expulsion of the last king and establishing the Roman Republic. Among his first laws were the legalization of the slaying of any man proclaiming himself king, and providing for a right of appeal to the people by any man condemned by a magistrate.

An unfortunate reality of life is that discussing certain topics or expressing certain opinions will have negative impact on the author, be it personal or professional. Publishing frank discussions (not personal attacks) that deserve examination while maintaining anonymity to protect the livelihood of the author is a proud tradition, and Publius is welcome at

Related Story:
The Ohio GOP Senate Leadership and the Selling Out of Gun Owners

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