Has Cleveland's mayor finally learned that it's about the criminals?

By Ken Hanson

The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently reported that Cleveland Mayor Frank “Blame the Guns” Jackson has announced a new crackdown on crime. With skepticism, I dove into the story, only to be astounded with the details.

Cleveland has finally launched a crime crackdown that will crackdown on criminals rather than inanimate objects! Maybe the years we have spent screaming at the ocean that is Cleveland’s anti-gun groupthink is finally breaking through.

The story goes on to detail actions and plans that will, in my humble opinion, actually crack down on crime - things like targeting criminals who use guns for stiffer sentences, aggressive community policing, enforcing existing laws and good record keeping. Blissfully absent from the program is any call for new laws or blame shifting. It appears, for once, that Cleveland is going to hitch up their belt and do some tough work rather than engage in political grandstanding.

We at Buckeye Firearms Association applaud this approach, and look forward with guarded optimism to continued reports. Our concern all along has been that Mayor Jackson is all too ready to blame mere objects rather than the people who wield them, and the recent months have provided no shortage of evidence that Jackson was more interested in declaring a war on guns rather than a war on crime.

In recent months, Jackson, with the aid of complicit reporters at the Plain Dealer, has been willing to attack a perceived “lack of laws” as to blame for Cleveland’s crime problem. One push was introducing legislation in the General Assembly to address the non-existent Juvenile Gun loophole. In response to Jackson’s allegations that Juveniles were wandering the streets of Cleveland with guns and Cleveland was powerless to stop it, Buckeye Firearms Association submitted a Public Records Request to Cleveland asking for copies of the research backing up this allegation and copies of incident reports detailing the encounters...you know, things that investigative reporters at the Plain Dealer would typically request as background rather than merely serving as a cheering section.

To date, Cleveland has not produced a single case to back up the claimed problem of Juveniles with guns going un-punished.

Another claim was a breathless story talking about Cleveland’s war on straw transactions, complete with a scapegoat named in a Sunday edition story claiming that a straw transaction lead to a criminal getting a gun used to murder a Cleveland Police Officer. I was outraged at this situation, as straw transactions are illegal under Federal and Ohio law contrary to the Plain Dealer’s reporting (don’t take my interpretation, read the story and reach your own conclusion. Does this reporting convey any message other than Elaine Smith bought the gun for someone else in an illegal straw transaction?). So I wrote the P.D. reporter asking for the details, as I intended to seek appointment as a special prosecutor to back my words with actions.

I explained to the reporter that my inquiry was to gather information so that I could go after this straw transaction criminally in state court. The P.D. response to my request for details was somewhat sheepish. In pertinent part, the reporter admitted the police told her that they did not feel comfortable proceeding with the case against Smith as a straw purchase. “Because the gun sat in her purse in a closet before it was used and she did not know Bryan had removed it, the (sic) didn't feel they could support that charge at the time.” Wow, and the story was still worded as they published it? Reread the story in light of this email. Making the unqualified statements contained in the story when the author’s possessed this type of knowledge prior to publication is about as irresponsible as me saying the story’s authors committed blatant acts of libel and someone should sue the P.D. back to the Stone Age. The First Amendment is not a hunting license.

Of course, since no crime fighting by a large liberal urban city is complete without an Assault Weapon Ban (AWB), we also submitted public records requests (did the Plain Dealer’s “investigative reporters?”) to Cleveland to learn about how the city had been rendered defenseless by their AWB being preempted by HB347. As the branch of Frank Jackson’s administration headquartered in the Plain Dealer building editorialized, “Cleveland had a tough assault-weapons ban until the state's concealed- weapons law invalidated it. That's simply wrong.”

As we reported in The truth about Cleveland’s “Assault Weapon Ban” - Part I, after nearly 3 months of waiting for Cleveland to “promptly” reply to our request, Cleveland was able to provide the overwhelming example of a grand total of 3 different cases where their AWB had been used to charge criminals, and in all 3 cases the AWB charges were dismissed in return for pleas to other, lesser charges. As we will be examining the coming days, in all of these cases, the AWB charges actually resulted in “wrist slap” charges versus, for instance, the felonies that could/should have been charged.

Again, Plain Dealer, all you had to do was ask the questions rather than serving as unpaid public relations employees for Frank Jackson. Is it so hard to determine if there are any actual facts in existence to support your editorial before you publish? Then again, maybe it is, if your Public Information Requests are treated as badly by Jackson’s administration as mine are.

So it is with guarded optimism that BFA looks forward to the implementation of this program, targeted at criminals rather than guns. As we will expose in the coming days, getting tough on criminals will be a profound change in policy for the City of Cleveland - a change we at BFA eagerly welcome and encourage. We sincerely wish Mayor Jackson luck and offer any encouragement and support we can offer so long as his administration is actually targeting criminals rather than objects.

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