Buckeye Firearms Assoc. Chairman Jim Irvine featured in Ohio Rifle & Pistol Assoc. member newsletter
The following interview was published in the June-July 2009 issue of Gunsmoke, the membership newsletter of the Ohio Rifle and Pistol Association (ORPA).
By David Johnson
We're starting a series of articles about some of the other fine organizations that promote the shooting sports, hunting, and firearm rights in Ohio. This month, we asked a few questions of James Irvine, Chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association and President of the Buckeye Firearms Foundation.
Tell us a little about the mission of the Buckeye Firearms Association.
Buckeye Firearms Association is a grassroots political action committee (PAC) dedicated to defending and advancing the right of Ohio citizens to own and use firearms for all legal activities, including self-defense, hunting, competition, and recreation. We work to elect pro-gun candidates and lobby for pro-gun legislation.
How did BFA get started and how did you personally become involved?
When I lived in Miami, [FL,] almost everyone I knew had a gun and a concealed weapons license. When I moved back to Ohio and bought my first handgun, I learned that I could not get a carry license. At that time Ohio was one of only seven states that would not issue a license. I saw a flier at a gun store asking for volunteers, so I filled it out and sent it in. I started by mailing bumper stickers and doing small jobs for the group. Because I have a schedule with weekdays off, I ended up going to Columbus to testify and meet with legislators. One thing lead to another, and today I'm Chairman of Buckeye Firearms Association (a PAC) and President of Buckeye Firearms Foundation (a charitable educational corporation). I never would have imagined myself doing all this but I love the work I'm doing and the people I am blessed to work with.
Some people say one person can't make a difference. Each of us makes a enormous difference to our families, especially our kids. There are kids who still have parents in Ohio today because their mom or dad had the forethought to carry a gun - and it saved their life. Groups like BFA change the laws to allow that to happen. Groups like ORPA teach important skills and get people interested in being better shooters. Through our members, both groups change lives in the most significant way every day.
Buckeye Firearms Association was born by a group of people who wanted to make a difference. We saw a need for a more effective lobbying group in Ohio for all gun owners. We want to get all gun owners working together, because the anti-gun forces have been successful at taking away our rights by attacking only a small segment at a time. We all need to understand that when self-defense comes under attack, it hurts hunters. When competition and ranges are attacked, plinkers and collectors need to come to the rescue because in the end, we must all stay united or we will all lose our rights one group at a time.
How is BFA different from similar organizations?
The people. Buckeye Firearms Association has been blessed with a great group of core volunteers, supported by an army of grassroots activists. The core leaders give of their time, talents and money in amounts that amaze me. We could all spend more leisure time, but choose to keep working on various projects with BFA. It is also amazing how different we are, but one person's weakness is another person's strength, and together we really are better than the sum of our parts. We are able to work through any situation because we trust each other like family, and we put the cause above any personal interest. With that dedication, there is no limit to what can be accomplished. Our donors and supports are the engine that drives us. We simply try to steer a good course with the energy and power they provide.
What successes have you had recently?
In the past year we were named "Volunteer Organization of the year" by the NRA-ILA. We also had several people win individual awards. We played an important part of passing SB184, Ohio's "Castle Doctrine" bill. Most people don't realize how many improvements there where to Ohio's laws in the other 80 pages of that bill. We are very proud of all the problems that were fixed and improvements that were made that enable gun owners to live and carry under sensible rules.
But I think the biggest success is the working relationship between the various pro-gun groups in Ohio. Ohio is blessed with a multitude of groups that foster and protect the shooting sports. Each one does a good job at focusing on its particular specialty or niche, but sometimes our lack of a consistent message has hampered efforts in the Statehouse. The last couple years have seen groups like ORPA, OGCA, USSA, NRA, PRO and others all working together. We are not giving up the important things that make us unique, but we are using each others’ strengths for the benefit of all gun owners. I think that is why there is something for every gun owner in last session's legislation and why people and groups from across the country are looking to Ohio as an example of how to work more effectively.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for law-abiding Ohio firearm owners in the near term? Long term?
I think apathy has always been our biggest enemy. We are right and the gun-grabbing bed wetters are wrong. There are mountains of statistics and studies and antidotal evidence to prove it. One of my favorite bumper stickers, "Criminals prefer unarmed victims" is such common sense that even the adversary can't disagree. Almost all people, even ones who have never owned a gun, get it, but gun owners read that the NRA is "the most powerful lobby" and think they are protected. They read about the success of groups like BFA and ORPA and are satisfied to do nothing and take the wins that come from other people's work. Each of us must individually do a better job to get our shooting buddies more involved. Give a membership to your favorite group as birthday or Christmas presents if you need to, but get them involved and educated.
Tell us about your lawsuit against the city of Cleveland and why it matters to people who don't live or work there.
Buckeye Firearms Foundation has sued the city of Cleveland, Mayor Jackson, Chief Mike McGrath, law director Robert Triozzi and others associated with harassing law-abiding gun owners. Every gun owner should be mad at the treatment of their fellow citizens. Basically the city has ordinances that conflict with state law. They prosecute gun owners who have done nothing wrong. They are bullies who hate guns and the people who own them. After paying thousands in legal fees, charges have been thrown out. Then the city turns around and files the same charges against the same person and the process starts over again. No person can afford to outspend the city in such a game. We are going to put an end to it. We have asked for a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction. Similar problems exist in other cities, but Cleveland has more bad law than any other Ohio city, thereby letting us do the most good for all citizens in one step. Lots of people think are safe from criminal charges because they don't do anything wrong. All of a sudden passenger in a car pulled over for a very minor offense is calling us begging for help because they don't have 5 grand to hire an attorney and they are about to lose all their guns. This is just one example of what happens in our state. If every gun owner in Ohio sent a small donation, we could all but eliminate the chances of them having to fight it alone vs. an anti-gun prosecutor.
Tell us a little about your radio program.
"Firearms Forum" airs on Sunday nights at 8PM on 1420 WHK, is simulcast over the web and is pod-cast on our web site. We have one or two guests per week and cover current events as well has safety, hunting, sport and self-defense stories. Lots of stuff is aimed at the seasoned gun owner, but we also try to reach out and educate the non-gun owner. We have received a lot of positive feedback on the show so hopefully we can sell advertising to keep it going and expand it to other markets.
What is the most important thing that Ohioans can do to help protect their rights?
Get involved. Even in tough times, everyone has some money or some time to give. Give it. Your members are involved, but we all need to do a better job recruiting gun owners that don't do anything. We have made a lot of progress in the past few years, but there are still many more issues to work on. The more gun owners get involved, the faster we will see excellent firearms laws.
How can people find out more about BFA?
To learn more about ORPA, and to become a member, click here.