Buckeye Firearms Assoc. attends SAF Gun Rights Policy Conference

The 2007 Second Amendment Foundation's Gun Rights Policy Conference (GRPC) is coming back to Ohio! (almost) It will be held just South of Cincinnati, in Covington Kentucky. This was the site of the 2001 GRPC.

This year’s conference was a great event. Great panelists, great groups and a passionate audience. A summary of the weekend follows, but we need to mention one problem that many of us have seen this past year.

Talking to Allan Gottlieb, or Wayne LaPierre, or any of the other national figures, one common threat we are facing across the United States is gun owner apathy. We have won so many battles and made so much progress that many gun owners do not seem worried about the threat looming over the horizon as the gun grabbers plot their return to power. The single most important element in passing successful laws, is not the NRA, or the SAF, or Buckeye Firearms Association or any other group. It is not the House or Senate or Governor or President. It is you, the gun owner, and your personal involvement in the fight.

Less than 5% of gun owners are a member of a pro-gun group. Many have quit volunteering or have never worked on a campaign. Many don’t like “politics” or feel embarrassed about what they do not know. They are willing to help, but are not sure how get started.

While it sometimes feels good to “preach to the choir” it does little to change the world. Each of us personally needs to convince other shooters to engage in the battle. There is strength in numbers. Show your local gun store how getting involved and educating their customers enables the election of good politicians. Get your hunting buddies to contact their legislators about specific bills. Passing good laws will encourage more people to take up one of the many disciplines of the shooting sports. More people will lead to greater political recognition for our groups and stronger sales for the local gun store. We are all connected, and we must all start working together to amplify our efforts.

It’s a grand ideal, but a simple concept. It is dependent on your action. What have you done this week to help our cause, and how many people did you bring with you?

As an example of the results that come from such a conference, in 2001 the GRPC was held in Cincinnati days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Two pilots were attending and asked to speak at the event on the idea arming airline pilots. They work for different airlines and live in different states, but shared the same passion and ideals. Though pilots overwhelming supported the concept, only a minute few believed the goal was attainable. That weekend was the beginning of what would become the group that would successfully lobby congress, against enormous political and financial pressures, including the airlines themselves. They educated the legislators and rallied the public and today airline pilots can carry firearms to defend their passengers and our country against such attacks.

Any obstacles can be overcome with the right knowledge, skills, and teamwork. How big can you dream?

We’ll see you next year - October 5-7, 2007!

Below is a summary of the events of the SAF’s GRPC including links to the web sites of many of the groups present.


The day got off to an interesting start when I discovered former Buckeye Football head coach John Cooper would be sharing a flight with me from Columbus to Charlotte. Given that the flight originated in Port Columbus, home of a gift shop that shows nonstop replays of prior Buckeye Football games, coach Cooper immediately stood out due to the fact that no one was sitting next to him or talking to him. Coach Cooper sat in the row ahead of me and had a very peaceful, uninterrupted flight.

On a more serious note, the airline representative commented to me that this was only the second time she had to check a firearm into luggage in the past year. We are doing a very poor job of traveling with our guns. A right unexercised is a right easily taken away.

Arrived in Charlotte with little trouble, and checked in at the beautiful Renaissance Hotel. Went to dinner with Jim Irvine and Attorney Dan Ellis from Toledo. We swapped updates and strategies throughout dinner, and caught up on pending cases. It was good to finally put a face with the voice.

We attended a welcome reception tonight with about 50 fellow gun rights activists. Many different “disciplines” are present – target shooters, hunters, collectors, CCW proponents and open carry advocates. Most people were fairly tired and begged off to their rooms by 9 p.m. Jim and I spoke at great length with Terrance Regan from Columbus based P.R.O., including lots of conversation on how to work together to salvage some bills from this legislative session.

We briefly spoke with Dave Workman, senior editor of Gun Week and Chuck Cunningham, director of federal affairs for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) Joe Tartaro and several others. Numerous hellos were exchanged with promises to visit more after we all rested up from our travels.

Saturday Morning:

The morning began with a generous continental breakfast hosted by Women & Guns and fellowship with our fellow gun rights activists. After the pledge and invocation, the program began with introductory statements from Joe Tartaro, editor of Gun Week and President of the SAF. Joe, a life long Democrat, talked about how the DNC is finally “getting” that gun control is a losing proposition, and for the first time the DNC platform contains statements on in the individual right to own firearms. Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the CCRKBA and founder of the SAF, talked about how the gun banners have not gone away, and simply are waiting in the wings for their return to power, despite what the DNC platform says.

The meeting then shifted to panel presentations, with a presentation from a panel on Federal affairs: John Snyder, CCRKBA, Charles Cunningham, NRA-ILA (Federal), Larry Pratt, GOA and Ralph Walker, National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association (NMLRA). All panelists lamented the stalling of several important pieces of legislation, including BATFE reform, D.C. ownership and Nationwide reciprocity.

The second panel was on State affairs, with presentations from Senator Sam Slom (HI), Paul Valone of Gun Roots of North Carolina Rick Daniel, legislative director for Gun Owners of South Carolina and Daniel Ellis for Ohioans for Concealed Carry. Unfortunately, the states other than Ohio had success after success to report while Ohio had only setbacks and delays to report. The common threads were to build personal relationships with elected officials and media personalities and that personal involvement by many individuals is required for our movement to be successful.

Wayne LaPierre of the NRA gave a rousing presentation prior to lunch on the global threat to individual firearm ownership, including the U.N. and Rebecca Peters. Wayne spent considerable time on the theme of “Remember New Orleans” while showing interviews and film of Katrina survivors facing those sworn to protect and defend them, who were on their doorsteps to leave them helpless. In one particular case familiar to many readers, the elderly lady who was wrestled to her kitchen floor by a linebacker-sized LEO reported 1.) Her gun still has not been returned, and 2.) She was robbed, again, 2 weeks ago.

We then broke for box lunches for an awards luncheon. As a general observation, I would like to point out that many in attendance here are what can be politely referred to as “founding fathers” of the modern gun rights movement. Too many of the attendees, on a ratio basis, are talking about shooting with their grandchildren. A common topic during the “aside” conversations during the breaks is lamenting the lack of young professionals involved in the fight. Too often people need a triggering stimulus to wake up and be involved, and that often happens later in life just due to the nature of statistics. This is particularly relevant in light of a comment that was posted to this blog this morning, talking about how difficult it is to exercise your rights.

I’m sure those who watched Wayne’s presentation today would unanimously agree that it is most important to exercise rights when it is difficult, before it is needed, lest you find yourself needing to exercise the right and not being able to do so. Remember New Orleans.

Saturday afternoon:

The awards luncheon was a “working lunch” in that speakers continued to give presentations, as well as attend to the actual awards. Honestly, there were 10 or so awards given, and it was hard to get the details down right. Instead of risking an omission or misstatement, I will wait for SAF and CCRKBA to issue their statements on the awards so that we get it right the first time.

John Lott was sick and could not make the conference. However, Bob Barr, formerly Congressman from Georgia, more than adequately filled up the time with a very thoughtful examination of the crisis of conscience facing the gun owner with the war on terrorism. On the one hand, gun owners typically support a very aggressive stance against terrorists. On the other hand, the war on terrorism invariably leads us to measures that are repugnant to liberty, which the gun owner typically zealously resists. Congressman Barr left us with a charge to ‘read the fine print” in any anti-terror legislation, as it might turn out that the current administration actions are more harmful to gun owners than any AWB or Brady Law from prior anti-gun administrations. Having begun to re-read Machiavelli’s Discourses on the plane on the way down, I see that patriots have been struggling with this balance for 500 years.

Representative Mark Hilton (NC) gave a presentation on his view from the legislator’s chair. He firmly believes that the most important work he did this session was killing bad bills. In a comment that will ring true to anyone following the debate on Ohio H.B. 347, he stated that it is next to impossible to get bad laws off the books. Invariably the debate devolves into the gun nuts wanting criminals to have guns. He feels it is critical to zealously and rabidly resist bad legislation from the very first moment, and to closely read any bill for potential traps for the gun owner.

Representative Mike Pitts (SC) gave a presentation on his view from the legislator’s chair. Mike stressed that the biggest impediment to good legislation is ego. He stressed that various pro-gun groups get wound up on “ownership” of bills, to the point where they will not support “competing” good bills. In such cases, no one gets a bill, because the legislators do not want to be a referee. In an especially poignant moment, he remarked that he keeps his voter registration card in his gun safe, because they protect each other. Finally, he stated that phone calls to legislators are much more effective than emails or letters, which are easier to delete or throw away, and face to face meetings are impossible to ignore.

Closing out the presentation was Joe Waldron from CCRKBA. He reinforced the message on personal contacts with representatives. He says that as a paid lobbyist his meetings with congress critters are routinely interrupted when constituents drop by the office to say hi.

The afternoon’s first panel was on Castle Doctrine in overview. Since most of the discussion reiterated what has already been covered on this website as far as history being on the side of castle doctrine, and duty to retreat being a very recent development, we will not rehash it here.

The second panel talked about fighting local laws in the courts. Terrence Regan, Chairman of Peoples Rights Organization (PRO) discussed the so-called Columbus Assault weapons ban. PRO has a storied history of not only suing Columbus over such bans, but winning. The rest of the discussion centered on the D.C./Parker case and the procedural history of the case and other cases on Second Amendment rights. One thing that was repeatedly stressed was the importance of choosing the cases, facts and parties. Bad facts make for bad law, and many carefully laid plans are being wrecked by reckless advocates rushing in and creating bad law. Further, gun rights decisions never come out of criminal cases. Rather, courts find ways to rule against criminals.

The third panel discussed grassroots activism. Topics included setting realistic goals, start small and convert one or two people at a time. Invite people to come shooting. Convert the anti-gun people. Educate the uneducated. Every person you reach out to, will reach out to other people. Reach out to all those people who will help when asked, but will not step forward until asked. We each, one at a time, are the ones that make the difference in achieving our goals.

The average American spend $200 a year on soft drinks, but only a fraction of that is spent supporting the groups that are working to defend our rights. We need to make sure our actions are in agreement with our ideals.

The next panel was on the international gun control movement. The battle with the United Nations (UN) They are well funded are globally active and have long term plans to carry out their goals. You can follow their work at Eye on the UN.

The next panel was titled, “Personal Protection on Public Lands.” The panel consisted of Dave Workman of Gun Week and Phillip Van Cleave, president of Virginia Citizens Defense League . They discussed firearms laws in state parks and forests and nation parks and forests. There are dangers in parks and hiking trails, yet CCW is prohibited in National parks.

The final panel for the day was titled, “Status of the Right to Carry.” We heard from State Senator Phillip Journey (R-KS) who was the sponsor of the Kansas CCW legislation, Rick Daniel, legislative director of Gun Owners of South Carolina Richard Pearson of the Illinois State Rifle Association, and Chris Bird , author of “The Concealed Handgun Manual” and “Thank God I had a Gun.” The stories of the decade long fights in Nebraska and Kansas are strikingly similar to the battles we fought in Ohio. Likewise the stories of other states that passed CCW prior to Ohio have similar stories to our past two years. The most encouraging fact is that every state that passed concealed carry many years ago has found success and has continued to make improvements to their laws. There is every reason to believe that we can continue that trend in Ohio.

The afternoon concluded with a lively question and answer period for all the afternoon’s guests.
Saturday evening:

The evening was a social occasion and a chance to network with other like minded people from around the country. It was quite enjoyable getting to know fellow grassroots people and learn about their obstacles and how they overcame them. Further, of almost immeasurable value, the various grassroots organizations got together and compared notes on fundraising, voter education and voter mobilization. We learned that our plans for this fall are very modest in scope. The North Carolina folks have just printed 80,000 voter guides, and the Illinois folks have printed and plan to mail *400,000* voter guides. Clearly we here in Ohio need to find our rainmaker funding sources. Right now we are overly dependent upon force multipliers such as email, forums (i.e. free) sources to distribute our information. While this is a good strategy, it cannot be the only tool in the box.

Several private receptions were held that night, and we circulated among many of them to continue the networking. At the event hosted by Open Carry.org those few individuals who were not openly armed were appropriately chided (in a polite way) by the others.

Of particular value, Dan Ellis and Ken Hanson got to spend considerable time with D.C. area attorney Alan Gura, who is the attorney of record in the D.C. ownership case brought by the SAF. We were able to swap many cases and strategies, and made some exciting plans for Second Amendment litigation in the future. To give you an idea of just how random these types of encounters can be, Sen. Sam Slom (HI) is the senator for Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman, who in this past week was arrested on a warrant out of Mexico for “kidnapping” a bail jumper. Ken Hanson remembered a very obscure Supreme Court case holding dealing with DEA agents kidnapping terrorists out of Mexico, and within 15 minutes of making the connections, that case citation was on the way back to Hawaii and his legal team.

Sunday Morning:

Morning Session began with a much smaller crowd due to departing flights. The first session was from Illinois, New York and New Jersey basically having a rhetorical competition to see which state was the worst with regard to infringing on gun rights. It was all done in good spirit and was quite enjoyable. A common theme from these presenters was that gun rights activists who are more “in your face” as far as controversial tactics, staged arrests etc are doing way more harm to the pro-gun movement than the Brady Bunches of the world could ever dream of causing. The media naturally gravitates to these types of people, because they make for more interesting cases than the calm professional stating the case. Consequently, the image of the movement that is projected is not the small business owner/professional; rather, it is the “gun nut” making wild pronouncements and threats.

The 2006 Watershed Congressional Election panel consisted of Paul Valone of Grass Roots of North Carolina, Alan Gottlieb and Charles Cunningham, federal affairs of NRA-ILA. Paul explained how they grade candidates on a four star scale against a baseline. A four star candidate will agree with their life members at least 90% of the time. Alan explained recent polls and compared them to prior elections. The bottom line is that it’s going to be very close in many crucial races, and many elections are likely to be determined by the gun vote and how active we are. Chuck outlines the federal and landscape. He touched on Governor candidates. Of particular interest to Ohio voters are the need to support Steve Chabot (R-1), and Joy Padgett (R-18) for U.S. Congress.

Dave Workman and Charles Heller, host of Liberty Watch and “America Armed & Free” radio programs discussed immigration problems and proposed solutions.

Next was the Effective Internet and Media Protocols for America panel. Donald Irvine, Chairman of Accuracy in Media is starting a web site and is seeking assistance in inaccurate media coverage of the firearms issue. Dave Kopel discussed the need for our advocates to be calm, rational and likable people. Our goal is to show people who we are and reinforcing their stereotype that gun owners are “angry” or out of control is damaging to our cause. Be a good ambassador. Jeff Knox, Operations Manager for the Firearms Coalition discussed using the internet and staying involved and informed. He also reminded us that Government does not grant us rights, it is we the people that grant the government the power to regulate us.

There was also a discussing of the Mayor Bloomberg’s New York city gun ban which he is trying to take nationwide. The key to NY is that it’s the media center of most of the major media companies, and thus the free publicity by biased media leading to the political pressure they will generate. Our adversaries have a well thought out plan, and we will have to work hard to prevail.

The session concluded with several resolutions of support for various issues.

It was a pleasure to talk with and listen to so many other people who are fighting the same battles we are fighting in Ohio. Sometimes we could offer advise to others, but as Ohio has consistently lagged years behind other states on firearms issues, we had the opportunity to hear from many people who have “walked in our shoes” in recent history. We are thankful for the opportunity the Second Amendment Foundation has created for groups and individuals to gather and share ideas. Each of us left better informed, better prepared and more motivated than we when we arrived.

Next year’s conference will be held in Covington Kentucky, just South of Cincinnati on October 5-7. It is free to attend, you receive over $100 worth of materials and the knowledge you take away will be priceless. We strongly encourage you to bring your friends and family for a fun and educational weekend. We look forward to meeting you there.

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Buckeye Firearms Association is a grassroots organization dedicated to defending and advancing the right of citizens to own and use firearms for all legal activities, including self-defense, hunting, competition, and recreation. Read more.