BFA Responds to Columbus Dispatch Editors' Attack on Gun Rights Lobbying
The Columbus Dispatch has never been a friend of law-abiding gun owners in Ohio. For as long as I can remember, they've used their bully pulpit in support of gun control.
But that's not surprising. Many, if not most, metropolitan newspapers are staffed by people who support all manner of civil rights, except for the one enumerated as "Amendment II" of the U.S. Constitution.
Urban liberals really dislike that particular right, as does nearly every civil rights organization in the country. The ACLU, for example, the battle-hardened slayer of civil rights dragons, says this about their mission:
The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
However, these guardians of liberty who would go to the mat for the free-speech rights of pro-Nazi groups have always treated the Second Amendment as the redheaded stepchild of the Bill of Rights.
That's why organizations like Buckeye Firearms Association (BFA) exist. We're just a civil rights organization advocating for the one right ignored by every other civil rights crusader. If the media and other civil rights groups would fight for the entire Bill of Rights — and not just for the bits they like — we could happily close up shop and go home.
Of particular concern to many editorial board members, including those with the Dispatch, is the violent crime rates in cities like Columbus. In fact, the Dispatch has been running an in-depth series of stories on so-called "gun violence" and ran a scathing editorial bemoaning the lack of gun control laws and calling out BFA for being "puppet masters" at the Statehouse.
The thrust of their argument is that they think legislators should look at cherry-picked polls that they claim represent Ohioans' overwhelming support for gun control and stop listening to gun rights advocates like us.
We could go toe-to-toe with polls and academic studies, but that won't convince anyone. So when we responded, we focused on the perplexing inference that somehow lobbying is wrong.
Here's our response to the editorial. They changed the headline upon publication.
'Puppet Masters' Respond: Dispatch editors need a lesson in basic civics
In a May 22 opinion piece titled “Puppet masters pulling lawmakers strings when it comes to guns in Ohio,” the Dispatch Editorial Board called out Buckeye Firearms Association for having the audacity to advocate for the rights of Ohio's 4 million gun owners.
They compare us to the “Wizard of Oz,” suggesting we're an “unseen force calling the shots from behind the curtain.”
But we're hardly an “unseen force.” We've been highly visible in Ohio for two decades and have been openly advocating for Second Amendment rights.
The editors speak of us with derision because we “lobby” for our policy preferences. Do they look with equal derision at lobbyists for labor unions, environmental causes, or civil rights? Do they accuse them of “pulling the strings” of legislators?
Of course not.
Maybe we need to remind the editorial board about the First Amendment, which guarantees the “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
That's the very definition of lobbying. It's as American as apple pie. Besides, anti-gun advocates are vocal with lawmakers. Shouldn't legislators listen to us, too?
We often don't agree with the Dispatch editors' opinions, but you don't see us decrying freedom of the press, do you?
If we had not been limited by the word count allowed for letters to the editor, the broader point I would have made is that elected leaders don't legislate based on arbitrary polling, surveys, or studies, such as those the Dispatch quoted ad nauseam. They are instead responsive to their constituents — the people who elect them, whose interests they represent and to whom they are accountable. Elections are the only polls that matter.
And BFA is just one of countless advocacy groups in Ohio who represent the interests of specific constituencies, in our case 4 million people who own guns in the state. We know what our supporters believe and what they expect from the leaders they vote for, and they rely on us to convey that to elected officials.
All we do is make sure their voice is heard at the Statehouse, same as lobbyists for the Ohio Federation of Teachers, Black Lives Matter, American Medical Association, AARP, VFW, National Association of Wheat Growers, Hookers for Hillary, or any other advocacy organization.
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And so the idea that legislators listening to BFA "lobbyists" is equivalent to ignoring "the people," and that we are a mysterious "unseen force" pulling the strings of volitionless Statehouse marionettes, is nonsense.
Pundits and editorial boards need to stop picking on lobbyists as if they're interlopers from another planet rather than what they actually are, which is representatives of a group of people with a particular point of view.
What we do by exercising our right to freely assemble and petition the government is just as American and patriotic as what the media do when they exercise their freedom of the press.
They should be celebrating us rather than sneering at us, even if we disagree on policy.
Dean Rieck is Executive Director of Buckeye Firearms Association, a former competitive shooter, NRA Patron Member, former #1 NRA Recruiter, and host of the Keep and Bear Radio podcast.