Athens News editor corrects false comments about Buckeye Firearms Association after readers respond

By Chad D. Baus

On Thursday, February 25, Athens News editor Terry Smith, who also teaches journalism courses at Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, published an editorial on the topic of the state and national tea party movement in which he encouraged Congressman Democrat Zack Space to refuse an invitation to appear at an event.

While the greater scope of Smith's article falls outside of the scope of this website, the editor made comments about Buckeye Firearms Association that need to be addressed.

From the editorial:

In a news release issued Monday, the Ohio Liberty Council, describing itself as "a non-partisan grass-roots volunteer organization comprised of leaders from tea party and other liberty-minded groups," said it has invited all the candidates running in the 18th Congressional District primary election in May.

The Liberty Council's coalition includes the Buckeye Firearms Association (a hard conservative political group that disguises itself as a gun-rights outfit), "9/12 projects" in Central Ohio and Columbus (groups inspired by Fox News flamethrower Glenn Beck), tea parties in Dayton and Cincinnati, and other "liberty" groups. (emphasis added)

I found Smith's reference to Buckeye Firearms Association as "a hard conservative political group that disguises itself as a gun-rights outfit" to be quite interesting, given our history of endorsing the strongest candidate on our one issue, no matter what their party, and wrote to tell him so.

In the comments section that follows the editorial, on February 26, I wrote:

Would a "hard conservative political group" that is just "disguis[ing] itself as a gun-rights outfit" have endorsed or supported four Democrats for U.S. Congress (including Mr. Space,) 27 Democrats for Ohio House, and 2 Democrats for State Senate in 2008? Would such a group have endorsed Democrats Ted Strickland and Marc Dann in 2006?

Not a chance. But we did.

For a complete history of our endorsements, check our our Voter Guide history:

http://www.buckeyefirearms.org/Voter-Guide

Other commenters also began weighing in on the subject that same day, and pertinant snippets are provided below:

Including the Buckeye Firearms Association - which often endorses Democrat candidates - in this tired (sic) is especially shameful. There is no other organization that has done so much for gun rights in Ohio (especially for concealed carry and state preemption).

and

As a supporter of 2A issues in Ohio I have been a member of all local and national gun rights groups, BFA is by far the most reasonable and respected by legislators for being fair, easy to work with and non partisan. you couldn't be more wrong or off base, a clarifacation is needed if you wish to maintain any credibility!

and perhaps most enjoyably:

BFA does not disguise themselves. They are a Second Amendment Rights group, non-partisan, Constitution loving and will stand beside anyone or group that believes the same. Now about your "disguise". You disguise yourself as a "journalist" and I suppose you love the First Amendment and would vigorously defend it against all who would want to limit it. And all freedom-loving people that believe in the Constitution would like-wise stand with you to defend that Right. We respect your right to freedom of speech, why can't you show the same respect for those of us who believe in the freedom to keep and bear arms. By the way, I "disguise" myself as a 65 yr. old, gun-owning, BFA and NRA member grandma.

Buckeye Firearms Association Central Ohio Chair Linda Walker also weighed in:

Perhaps Mr. Smith, you would like to accompany Buckeye Firearms to a tea party, speech, event, gun show, expos etc to see first hand that it doesn't matter what the venue is...our message is ALWAYS 100% Second Amendment Rights.

You're making broad assumptions that because Buckeye Firearms is involved in a tea party event, then we must be changing our focus and are now "a hard conservative political group that disquises itself as a gun-rights outfit". I assure you, as ALWAYS...Buckeye Firearms is and always will be a non-partisan, one issue PAC...and that one issue is gun rights. It doesn't matter the venue...if people will listen to the message about their Second Amendment Rights, then Buckeye Firearms will be there to educate them on the importance of "the right to keep and bear arms."

...Let us know when you would like to accompany us to an event Mr. Smith.

That same day, Smith followed up to my initial comments with this:

My point is that you involve yourself in a much broader scope of issues than just gun rights (witness your participation in the right-wing Liberty Council's events), and usually it's coming from a very conservative direction.

His comments, of course, necessitated another reply:

Mr. Smith - What you claim was your "point" isn't even close to you said - you said BFA is a "a hard conservative political group that disguises itself as a gun-rights outfit."

We are a non-partisan, single issue group no matter where we go to represent it, and there are years of proof in our actions to back that up. Other than our decision to represent gun rights at tea parties (like I said, we represent those rights no matter WHERE we go), would you care to provide proof to your allegation that we are involved "in a much broader scope of issues than just gun rights?" You won't be able to.

So instead, why don't you just admit you were mistaken in making those comments?

Smith's initial instinct was to keep on defending his baseless comment, under a February 27 comment titled "maybe too strong":

If I had the chance to rewrite that line, I'd qualify it a bit, by saying "a gun-rights group that consistently shows up at right-wing political events." But that doesn't change my basic premise that the BFA is a political group (albeit focused on gun rights) that identifies closely with the tea-party and liberty movements (listed prominently as a participant in the upcoming candidates forums). I'm a gun owner who would never consider joining your group precisely for that reason. The fact that conservative Democrats such as Zack Space occasionally win your endorsements doesn't change my opinion.

Wisely, and before receiving any further comment, he deleted his original "maybe too strong" post and replaced it with this:

I think you make some good points, though my personal opinion is that the BFA is a hard conservative group, and that's precisely why I would never consider being a member, even though I do own a gun. But yes, I'll concede that your primary focus is gun rights, rather than some broader agenda, and I'm sorry for suggesting otherwise. I've placed a correction in the column. I do wish you folks would consider writing letters to the editor, rather than confining your comments to this relatively little-read forum.

In his editorial, the paragraph in question now reads as follows:

The Liberty Council's coalition includes the Buckeye Firearms Association, "9/12 projects" in Central Ohio and Columbus (groups inspired by Fox News flamethrower Glenn Beck), tea parties in Dayton and Cincinnati, and other "liberty" groups. (Editor's note: In the original version of this column, I described the Buckeye gun group as "a hard conservative political group that disguises itself as a gun-rights outfit." That unfairly suggested that their primary focus is something other than gun rights. That's not the case, and I apologize for the misstatement. TS)

We are thankful for Smith's concession and correction, and yes, we took him up on his invitation to write a letter to the editor. It will be published on Thursday.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

[UPDATE: Letter to the Editor published - Smith inaccurately portrayed gun-rights group in his column]

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