The importance of elected officials on full display during opponent testimony to SB239 (Restaurant & Car Carry Rules Fix)

by Ken Hanson Esq.

Regular readers of our website are familiar with the refrain "elections matter." Buckeye Firearms Association feels that elections are the most important component of firearm rights: without pro-gun legislators, prosecutors, judges and law enforcement, your fundamental right to own firearms and your fundamental right to self-defense are in constant peril.

To give the reader an illustration of the importance of elections, we need to look no further than the final day of testimony on SB239 (restaurant carry and eliminating car carry restrictions) and SB247 (fixing Ohio's restoration of rights statute). On this day, those opposed to your rights got their opportunity to testify in front of the Senate. The tone, and content, of the testimony starkly reveals the difference between elected and unelected officials.

Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police

John Gilchrist Esq. is the professional/paid lobbyist for the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP.) In Ohio, Chiefs of Police are unelected officials, most often appointed by a mayor or a city council. There is no direct accountability to the voters. The OACP has opposed every single piece of pro-gun legislation that empowers civilians, including the original concealed carry law. This time was no different. During his testimony, Gilchrist opined that statistics are "worthless" (thus the Senators should ignore any empirical evidence and/or what other states are doing.) He also spouted the tired refrain that guns and alcohol don't mix, that licensees are a safety risk and that he wants licensee information to be public record. Gilchrist's justification for making the licensee records public is that no one is telling the sheriff when a licensee is arrested (i.e. the police aren't doing their job.)

Ohio Fraternal Order of Police

Mark Drum is the professional/paid lobbyist for the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police. The FOP is a union that represents sworn police officers and is funded through union dues deducted from wages paid to police officers (i.e. funded by your tax dollars.) Neither the labor union leadership nor the members are directly accountable to voters. The FOP opposes SB239, according to Drum, in part because it would: allow licensees to drive around twirling guns on their finger, allow the use of quick draw holsters that are a danger to police and require those going to restaurants to have "designated shooters." Drum also testified that police officers should be allowed to drink in restaurants and/or while consuming because they are "better trained," "better decision makers," and have received weapons retention training. (I should note that I had the OPOTC training curriculum in my hands as Drum testified, and sure enough, there isn't any training about how to carry while intoxicated, no training on carrying concealed and no explanation of how a person would get into a situation where there would be a "gun snatch" when the gun is concealed.) The tone, content and manner of his testimony was condescending and insulting to gun owners.

Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association

Steve Loomis is the officer designated to represent the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association (CPPA). The CPPA is a union that represents sworn Cleveland police officers and is funded through union dues deducted from wages paid to police officers (i.e. funded by your tax dollars.) Neither the labor union leadership nor the members are directly accountable to voters. I note that Loomis is a designated officer versus a paid/professional lobbyist to point out that he isn't doing this for a living. I make this point because I hope Loomis was simply having an "off day," as he generally has been polite, professional and supportive of concealed carry. His testimony on this day was quite the opposite.

The CPPA is convinced that, if SB239 passes, drunken fools will be getting into gun fights instead of fist fights. (If a licensee is convicted of being in a fist fight, they are ineligible for a concealed handgun license (CHL) for 3 years, so obviously licensees aren't getting into drunken fist fights now.) Perhaps most concerning Loomis opined several times that his officers were now more likely to shoot licensees during traffic stops and when responding to "bar fights." While his tone and demeanor were polite and professional, the content of his testimony was incredibly insulting to gun owners.

Buckeye State Sheriff's Association

McKenzie Davis is a professional/paid lobbyist that represents the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association (BSSA). The BSSA is group organized to collectively represent Ohio's 88 sheriffs, who are all elected officials and directly accountable to voters every four years. BSSA pointed out that they have supported most improvements to Ohio's concealed carry law, and that they were the only group to support the original concealed carry law that established the license. BSSA testified that "guns and alcohol don't mix" and that it was OK for officers to be in bars because they are better trained. Davis' testimony was about three minutes, was polite and professional; he made the few points in opposition and then he sat down.

Ohio Association of Prosecuting Attorneys

John Murphy is a professional/paid lobbyist that represents the Ohio Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (OPAA). The OPAA is a group organized collectively to represent Ohio's 88 prosecuting attorneys, who are all elected officials directly accountable to voters every 4 years. OPAA also includes prosecutorial staff, such as assistant prosecutors and victim advocates. The group is funded with dues almost always paid from tax dollars, either from prosecutor's general funds or furtherance of justice funds (i.e. your tax dollars.) Murphy testified that OPAA was OK with removing the vehicle carry restrictions but had concerns about the restaurant carry portion. Murphy's testimony was polite, subdued and to the point. I should note that Dave Yost, candidate for state Auditor, is on the current Executive Committee of OPAA, and Yost did a lot of work educating his fellow prosecutors on the technical issues involved in these two bills.

No one testified in opposition to SB247.

I hope this summary of testimony helps illustrate the difference between elected and unelected officials. The elected officials take the time to understand the issues, analyze them critically and then make a decision. If they don't agree with something, they make that point in a professional way and then don't belabor the point, appealing to emotional arguments or insults. The unelected officials/groups act much differently, with much more arrogance and contempt for your rights.

Direct accountability matters a lot, and there are two parts to direct accountability: first, the position must be elected (i.e. it is well past time to pass a constitutional amendment requiring chiefs of police be elected) and second, you must work in support of, and get out and vote for, pro-gun candidates.

Ken Hanson is a gun rights attorney in Ohio. He serves as the Legislative Chair for Buckeye Firearms Association, and is the attorney of record for Buckeye Firearms Foundation, which filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the Heller and McDonald Supreme Court cases. The National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) has awarded him with its 2008 Defender of Justice Award and 2009 Jay M. Littlefield Volunteer of the Year Award. He is the author of The Ohio Guide to Firearm Laws, a certified firearms instructor and holds a Type 01 Federal Firearms License.

Related Stories:
SB239 and SB247: Two bills whose time has come

Ohio Senate passes SB239 (Restaurant & Car Carry Rules Fix) and SB247 (Restoration of Rights)

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