HB 203 opponents follow Washington D.C. political consultants' anti-gun playbook to the letter

by Chad D. Baus

Recently, a very interesting document began making its rounds through the gun rights community after having been leaked online.

Entitled "Preventing Gun Violence Through Effective Messaging," it is an 80-page playbook designed to help anti-gun rights extremists learn why they continue to get beat, and how to change their message so as to fool the general public into thinking their mainstream views are actually supported by these anti-gun rights extremist groups.

"Preventing Gun Violence Through Effective Messaging" is based on a 2011 study conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, and was prepared by three Washington D.C.-based political consultants - Frank O'Brien of OMP, a direct marketing firm whose client list includes leftist organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the National Resources Defense Council, John Neffinger and Matthew Hut of KNP Communications, and Al Quinlan of the aforementioned Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, whose client list is a virtual who's who of anti-gun politicians including Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Rahm Emanuel, and Gabrielle Giffords, as well as anti-gun rights and leftist groups including Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the Joyce Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, National Public Radio and the Sierra Club.

According to the introduction, the playbook was prepared in order to "help organizations and individuals choose effective arguments and language when communicating with the public on behalf of stronger public policies to prevent gun violence."

I've already written a two-part series reviewing the playbook.

In Part 1 of this series, I documented the weakness of what the gun banners believe is their three best arguments, their attempts to fool people by using code words to refer to their gun control agenda, their admission that the NRA is a mainstream group with broad public support, and their focus on using emotional scare-tactics, rather than facts, as a means of changing public opinion.

In Part 2 of this series, I documented the gun banners' plans to exploit public emotions in the wake of active killer attacks, hide their anti-gun agenda from mainstream audiences, and exploit racial divisions.

As I listened to the opponents' rhetoric, both in the media and in floor testimony on Wednesday, I quickly realized that I'm not the only person in Ohio who's read the playbook. HB 203's opponents have clearly read it too, and are following it to the letter.

Throughout the hearing process, the bill sponsor and Buckeye Firearms Association leaders have patiently explained that HB 203 is substantially different than the Florida law that has inspired media-generated controversy and gained national notoriety after Trayvon Martin attacked George Zimmerman.

In Ohio, under HB 203, the burden of proof will remain on an individual to prove their innocence by a preponderance of evidence that a lethal use of force was a matter of self-defense. In Florida, the burden is on the state to prove that an individual committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt - a much lower standard.

Yet according to opponents of HB 203, the following legislative change will turn Ohio into a racist "shoot first" state such as they have painted Florida:

Sec. 2901.09 (B) For purposes of any section of the Revised Code that sets forth a criminal offense, a person who lawfully is in that person's residence has no duty to retreat before using force in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person's residence, and a person who lawfully is an occupant of that person's vehicle or who lawfully is an occupant in a vehicle owned by an immediate family member of the person has no duty to retreat before using force in self-defense or defense of another if that person is in a place that the person lawfully has a right to be.

Even with this change, a person claiming self-defense must still be able to prove both that he or she was not at fault in creating the situation, that they had reasonable grounds to believe (objective facts) and an honest belief (a subjective belief that the objective facts amounted to) an imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death, and that the only way to escape this imminent danger was using lethal/deadly force. Period.

But opponents and their media sycophants insist on calling the reforms to Ohio's self-defense law "stand your ground" provisions. And there is a reason.

The playbook tells them to.

According to the playbook, such laws are among the main gun control initiatives for which polling indicated people could be fooled into supporting.

The playbook contains an entire chapter devoted to "stand your ground" laws. The authors specifically instruct readers to attempt to rebrand them as "Shoot First" or "Kill at Will" laws, but at the same time acknowledges that since SYG has gained broad usage, "we may need to use it as a reference point. But, we should quickly shift to language that positions our argument more persuasively.")

Taking a page directly from the playbook, in her racially-charged floor speech against the bill, Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) repeatedly referred to HB 203's "Stand Your Ground Kill at Will" provision.

Over and over, Rep. Reece follows the playbook's advice to "quickly shift to language that positions our argument more persuasively." And she wasn't the only one. Over and over again throughout committee testimony opponents of this bill followed the playbook by referring to this simple change as "kill first, explain later" (Moms Demand Action) and "shoot first 'Stand Your Ground'" (Ohio Student Association).

The playbook also notes that the term "duty to retreat" is a problematic. You see, because these laws actually make sense to the mainstream public when they are accurately explained as establishing the self-defense standard that no person should have to overcome some legal "duty to retreat" when they are attacked, the playbook authors advise avoiding the term whenever possible:

Another phrase that we should avoid whenever possible is "duty to retreat." It may be an established legal principle, but in the public square, it sounds weak and hard to defend.

"Weak and hard to defend." I think that sums up HB 203's opponent's position pretty damn well.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, and BFA PAC Vice Chairman.

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