SAF Leadership Conference better arms Regional Activists

The Second Amendment Foundation held a leadership training conference on Saturday, May 12 at the Drawbridge Inn and Convention Center in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky. This is also site of the 2007 Gun Rights Policy Conference (GRPC) that will be held October 5-7.

The event brought together leaders and activists from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana to network, share ideas, and learn from the experience and expertise of Alan Gottlieb, Joe Tartaro, and Peggy Tartaro regarding how to be more effective pro-gun activists.

Speakers from regional groups, Kentucky Coalition to Carry Concealed , Buckeye Firearms Association , Peoples Rights Organization , 2nd Amendment Patriots , and Open Carry Ohio shared ideas and solutions with those in attendance.

Buckeye Firearms Association looks forward to working with all in attendance in the coming months as we prepare to welcome the Second Amendment Foundation back this October and continue our efforts to restore your Second Amendment Rights.

Click 'Read More' for a detailed recap.

Approximately 15 Buckeye Firearms Association supporters were part of the nearly 60 activists in attendance at this one day event. Groups and supporters from all three states were represented, including from the previously mentioned as well as from the South West Ohio Conservation Club, Gun Owners of America, Ohioans for Concealed Carry, National Rifle Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, Revolutionary War Veterans Association, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, International Defensive Pistol Association and many others from area sportsmen clubs and ranges.

The morning started with a complete overview of the Pro/Anti Gun rights playing field by Joe Tartaro. Joe noted that while gun owners have not seen a large threat at the national level for several years, the anti-gun groups have been focusing their activities at the state and local levels. The two opposing groups show strength in different areas. The Anti-Gun groups tend to be very well financed, mainly from large donations from a few national coalitions and foundations. The Pro-Gun groups have been able to be effective despite this by being much more organized on a grassroots level. Pro-Gun groups count on many smaller donations from a larger pool of activists.

Next up Alan Gottlieb provided a summary of the current Legislative and Legal environment we are working in. The main legislative issues that have been a concern since the Virginia Tech murders have dealt with NICS check and mental health records. It was encouraging to hear that even though control of the US congress has switched parties, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is hesitant to get gun rights activists fired up. She is instead choosing to try to pass mainly symbolic gun legislation without much substance. Despite the change of controlling party, the US congress is still heavily Pro-Gun. Alan estimated that approximately 1/3 of the newly elected Democrats can be considered Pro-Gun. Another 1/3 of the newly elected Democrats, while not thoroughly pro-gun, are not party hardliners and they are concerned about alienating pro-gun voters in their districts. They barely beat opponents the last election and won't risk defeat by following an anti-gun path which they don't support 100%.

On the legal side, attendees received a complete update on the D.C. Parker case from the organization that has driven this effort. Some anti-gun groups have tried to downplay last week's refusal by the District Court to rehear in front of the entire court by noting the vote was only 6-4 to not rehear. Alan noted that 7-3 was a more accurate count since one of the judges voting to rehear voted on the standing of the case, not Second Amendment issues. Alan reviewed the work that SAF and others have put forth over the past two decades to get us this far. Activists have spent years working and researching gun rights and making sure that current law and academic journals publish individual rights articles and commentary. This is finally paying off as many recent law school graduates are finally graduating having heard the truth about individual vs. collective gun rights. It was noted that despite years of careful planning, this case is not guaranteed to make it to the Supreme Court. The District of Columbia is the party who has to request the SCOTUS hear the case and they may decide it is safer to rewrite current law to allow lawful ownership with registration than chance having the SCOTUS throw out their entire prohibition.

The next speaker was Jim Dixon from the Kentucky Coalition to Carry Concealed. Jim spoke on recent success Kentucky has seen on firearms law reform. It definitely gave the supporters from Ohio something to look forward to. Jim emphasized the need to work with both parties in his state. Much like Ohio, pro-gun Democrats control much of Kentucky and building relationships regardless of other issues is extremely important. Kentucky has successfully worked up an 'F' rating from the Brady Bunch and is actively headed toward the coveted 'F-' rating. The current 'F' is due to legislation which exempts Kentucky Concealed Carry Licensees from the NICS check for firearm purchases, removes employer control over firearms legally stored in employees' automobiles while at work, forbids unlawful seizure, and allows out of state visitors to carry openly or in a closed glove compartment anywhere in Kentucky. Items Kentucky is still working to pass include removing the restriction on campus carry (they already have lawful drop off at other schools), removing the 6 month residency requirement and removing a citizenship requirement that has recently been added. Things look good in Kentucky and it was a pleasure to not be restricted from self-protection in restaurants and other locations as we are burdened with in Ohio.

Jim Irvine from Buckeye Firearms Association covered some current activities in Ohio. Jim reviewed the recent success of HB347, Ohio's first positive gun law reform since the original Concealed Carry law passed in 2004. It was noted that the override of the Governor's veto was possible because of the close friendships Ohio gun owners have cultivated with legislators over the years. These relationships have proven beneficial in making CCW for hunters a reality as well as allowing us to work closely with the new Governor Strickland's transition team on other sportsman and gun owner issues. Ohio is positioned well to see a wave of gun law reform in the future much as Kentucky has seen in the past. Jim encouraged attendees to continue building relationships with legislators with whom gun rights is not a top priority. Even if the legislator is not from your area, pro-gun individuals can be a great source of information and motivation for legislators who focus on other issues.

One of the founders of the Columbus, Ohio based People's Rights Organization covered the history and successes of this long standing organization. Terrance Reagan covered the group’s history from its inception as a response to the 1989 Columbus semi-auto ban through periods of growth and direction changes. Terrance stressed the importance for every group to stay focused on enacting change, not just growing numbers. While growing numbers is important for short-term support, it is enacting change that keeps an organization effective and strong. PRO has seen great success by using gun shows they host as a way to raise funds and encourage supporters. Before PRO gun shows started the circuit, most gun shows were little more then swap meets. The PRO gun shows are mini-activist events where gun owners can not only find the newest and best equipment in the shooting sports, but also function as hubs for getting people involved and in contact with legislators to see improvement in Ohio. Buckeye Firearms Association thanks PRO for their hard work and support of us at these events.

Jim Tomes represented the 2nd Amendment Patriots from Indiana. They have a lifetime concealed carry license and the rules for gun owners are so good it’s hard to believe they border Ohio. Jim noted that even though their laws are terrible by the anti-gun standards, none of the anti-gun predictions have come true. He sees no reason why Indiana type gun laws would not work just as well in Ohio.

Kenton Maynard from the newly formed 'Open Carry Ohio' focused on educating the public and the law enforcement community on firearm owners and firearm ownership. Open Carry Ohio hopes to dispel many of the common misconceptions about gun owners, who are so often stereotyped in the media. By showing the public and the law enforcement community that "gun" does not equal "criminal," Open Carry Ohio hopes to provide a balance to the misinformation non-gun owners are seeing on a daily basis.

Joe Tartaro gave a talk on the founding fathers and the great work they did. It was inspiring to listen to their success in spite of obstacles greater than we have today.

Peggy Tartaro discussed recruiting new members. She stressed looking outside the “traditional” gun owners to women, minorities, young people, crime victims, doctors, attorneys, reporters and others not normally thought of as “pro-gun”. We need to reach out to others who are not familiar with firearms and help educate them. Start by helping them see a perspective that is often lacking in the typical anti-self-defense news stories.

Joe Tartaro discussed media relations and the importance of working with the media and helping to educate them. If you have friends in the media, take them to the range. Remember the goal is to educate them and help them feel comfortable. (Start with a .22 or revolver, not your Redhawk .44 Magnum)

Alan Gottlieb discussed organization structures and the differences between them. This area can get very complicated with serious tax implications. Careful planning is important.

Discussion then turned to internal communications and alert systems. If you do not receive our free weekly email alerts, please sign up here.

The day concluded with a group participation session utilizing the skills we covered throughout the day. The SAF is to be commended for taking the time to condense a wealth of information into a well organized, one-day event in a location convenient to local activists.

Possibly the most important aspect of the day was networking. Getting together with like-minded people from others states provided the opportunity to create relationships that will prove beneficial to the pro-gun cause for years to come. The many successes and continuing work of Indiana and Kentucky groups give all Ohio groups, as well as the Ohio legislature, a clear target of what is required to bring Ohio’s laws up to a minimally acceptable level.

We hope to see you this October 5, 6, & 7 at the Gun Rights Policy Conference ) in Cincinnati Ohio. Reserve your spot today.

Related stories:
2006 Gun Rights Policy Conference

2005 Gun Rights Policy Conference blog

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