Provenance of anti-gun Lee Fisher quote undetermined; Fisher's record as anti-gun politican is fact

by Chad D. Baus

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, in partnership with, has begun a new series "addressing the claims, ads and statements of players in the political world."

According to the newspaper, "political reporters, assisted by news researchers at times, will review the bills and statistics that are cited. They'll examine data and studies to see if they back up the claims, and they'll seek out impartial sources and independent studies. The specific wording of claims, and their context, will be considered. Sources will be listed so the process is transparent to readers."

Among the first questions examined by the researchers was whether or not a quote that has long-been attributed to anti-gun U.S. Senate candidate Lee Fisher was actually ever uttered by him.

The quote, which the newspaper notes has been "cited since at least 1994 by gun-rights advocates, political opponents (including the campaign of at least one Democrat), blogs and websites:"

"I never met a gun control bill I didn't like."

In all those many years of having the quote attributed to him, the investigators note that the former Handgun Control Inc. board member never uttered a single word of protest.

This year, however, Fisher has apparently realized that support for gun rights is an important component in getting elected to a statewide office in Ohio. As such, he is now trying to backpedal from his long reputation as a gun control advocate, having apparently determined that disputing the quote will somehow make the rest of his atrocious record on gun rights somehow more palatable.

We beg to differ.

From the article:

PolitiFact Ohio turned to groups that have used the quote against Fisher, including the Buckeye Firearms Association, the Ohio Republican Party and the campaign of Rob Portman, the Republican running against Fisher for the U.S. Senate. They all suggest his support for the Second Amendment runs from weak to nonexistent.

It spoke with people who dealt with Fisher two decades ago and opposed him on issues in the Ohio Senate. And it asked the National Rifle Association -- twice -- to dig into its research archives, although the NRA didn't follow up either time. We checked decades' worth of newspaper clippings and websites and asked those who keep using the quote to check their records in case they've found it.

No one has.

This has been an ongoing examination ever since the Buckeye Firearms Association and an operative in the campaign of Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, separately cited the quote during Ohio's Democratic primary. Fisher won that primary against Brunner, who is Ohio's secretary of state.

They and others noted earlier references to the quote, and not just from this year. The quote was a piece of political folklore, and Fisher had not appeared to do anything to tamp it down until recently. We won't speculate why, although it's clear that any discussion of Fisher and guns can get sticky when he says he's a Second Amendment supporter. Fisher has tried repeatedly to regulate guns, whether from his perch as a former board member of Handgun Control, Inc., or from his service in the Ohio Senate, or from his time as Ohio attorney general.

Fisher's claim of consistency in his belief in the Second Amendment is more than "sticky" - it deserves a Plain Dealer / investigation all on its own. While the investigators didn't create a stand-alone article about that new piece of "sticky" Fisher-inspired folklore, they did include some information about his record of opposition to the Second Amendment:

Fisher says that Americans have the right to own guns for protection and sport. But as he said in May on a radio program, "we should do background checks to make it harder for bad guys, or people who have a serious mental illness to get a gun." He embraced assault-weapons bans. Prior to 1993, when Congress passed the so-called Brady Bill to require background checks and a waiting period for gun purchases, Fisher tried repeatedly to get a similar law passed in Ohio.

Second Amendment absolutists and many other law-abiding sportsmen disagree with Fisher. Critics cite other statements he has made in support of gun regulation, such as this, from a 1993 memo when Fisher was Ohio attorney general: "The right to bear arms is a very limited right..."

That's how the Portman campaign characterizes Fisher's statement, anyway, although the full quote was actually: "The right to bear arms is a very limited right and the state and its political subdivisions have the authority to regulate the possession and use of assault weapons."

So we can stipulate that no matter what Fisher says about his support for the Second Amendment, he and the gun rights lobby are going to be far apart.

Perhaps even stranger than Fisher having apparently never previously objected to the quote in question is his decision to do so now. By raising the question over whether or not he actually said the words "I never met a gun control bill I didn't like," Fisher has made sure that the facts about his anti-gun record are brought to light once again.

From a recent Columbus Dispatch article, which covered Fisher's election year flip-flop:

Here is how The Dispatch characterized Fisher's general gun control stance in a 2006 article: A board member of Handgun Control Inc. during the 1980s, Fisher supported gun controls as Ohio attorney general from 1991 to '95.

And this is from an Associated Press story in 1993 about a Ohio Supreme Court case involving a Cleveland ordinance banning possession and sale of assault weapons:

A memo filed in support of the ordinance by Attorney General Lee Fisher said, "The right to bear arms is a very limited right and the state and its political subdivisions have the authority to regulate the possession and use of assault weapons.

"I think it is outrageous that we put criminals on the honor system, that we allow a criminal to buy a gun in Ohio, and for that matter in America, as quickly as a law-abiding citizen can buy a quart of milk at the local convenience store," he said in an interview.

Jessica Towhey, Portman's spokeswoman, said Fisher’s radio interview shows that "he will say anything to score a few political points, including intentionally misleading Ohioans about his career-long fight against our Second Amendment rights."

And from a Plain Dealer article entitled "Fisher says crime commisson not just a showcase; hopes to open national debate," published on July 30, 1995:

Former Ohio Attorney General Lee Fisher, named by President Clinton two weeks ago to head a new national crime commission, brings solid crime-fighting credentials to the appointment. But Fisher, a partisan Democrat, is also often linked with one element of the crime debate - gun control.

To some conservatives, it sounds like a set-up: Take a defeated state attorney general sympathetic to gun control laws, name him to chair a national commission, and prop him up to campaign for public office again in two years. And such a hand-picked commission might produce a report that mirrors the chairman's view favoring gun control to combat crime and violence in America.

...Fisher is a board member of the National Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, the think tank affiliated with Handgun Control Inc., the nation's strongest gun-control lobby. He said he anticipated that some members would disagree strongly with gun control policies.

The National Rifle Association already has denounced his appointment, and some congressional Republicans are wary.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich said liberals try to reduce crime to an "instrumentality," the gun rather than the criminal.

"If you have already decided the solution when you appoint the chairman of the commission," Gingrich said, "it seems to me you can just save the money and have the chairman sit down with a laptop and write his particular version, putting in his own prejudices, and be done with it."

The 1995 article went on to say that Fisher "favors more gun control and anticipates the commission will consider more gun laws," and noted that then-Sen. Mike DeWine, another long-time anti-gun politician who is also trying to manufacture a set of pro-Second Amendment credentials in 2010, "applauded" his appointment.

In 1993, Aaron Zelman, executive director of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, wrote a book asserting that the U.S. Congress used the Nazi Weapons Law of 18 March, 1938 to craft the American gun control Gun Control Act of 1968. Perhaps his strongest proof came in the form of a letter from Lewis C. Coffin, law librarian at the Library of Congress, to the late Sen. Thomas J. Dodd, whose subcommittee hearings were a precursor to the 1968 gun control law, which said "We are enclosing herewith a translation of the Law on Weapons of March 18, well as the Xerox copy of the original German text which you supplied." The translation was delivered four months before the 1968 Act was passed.

Lee Fisher, then Ohio attorney general, was asked to comment on what the Plain Dealer, in an April 13, 1993 article, termed "compelling evidence."

Asked to comment on Zelman, his allegations and the implications for Americans about being ruled by Nazi-derived law, gun-control arch-proponent Fisher chose to denigrate Zelman and JPFO.

Fisher, for five years a member of Handgun Control Inc.'s national board of governors, said the shrillness of JPFO's "propaganda" makes him averse to dignifying its argument by a legal response.

"In many ways, it's an irrelevancy anyway," he said of Zelman's core contention. "The question is, is (the 1968 law) adequate? I say it's not. It puts criminals on the honor system, and that's why we need a Brady Bill."

That the revelation America had based its gun control laws on Nazi Germany's disarmament of the Jews, as a precursor to genocide, was "an irrelevancy" to Lee Fisher should be even more explosive than his unsourced quote, which could easily have been said about him, if it was not said by him. And indeed it appears as though that may be where the quote finds its origins.

Again, from Sunday's Plain Dealer / article:

So where did the quote come from?

That's not entirely clear, but a 1989 column in the Columbus Dispatch sheds some light. Fisher was a state senator then, trying for the fifth time to pass a statewide gun-control law. This time, Fisher’s proposal was getting a second look, and then-state Sen. Paul Pfeifer, the Republican who chaired the Judiciary Committee, indicated he would give Fisher a hearing.

Pfeifer, describing the political climate for gun control, told the Dispatch then that Fisher had a reputation of having "never met a gun-control bill he didn’t like." Those were Pfeifer's words, however, not Fisher's.

Pfeifer, now an Ohio Supreme Court justice, told The Plain Dealer he doesn't recall details of what he may have said in 1989, but "if you found the quote, then I probably said it."

Buckeye Firearms Association has not ended its own investigation into the source of the quote that has long-been attributed to Fisher. But whether or not the provenance of the quote can be determined, we are thankful to Lee Fisher for having finally, after sixteen years, decided to deny having said it. In doing so he has provided an excellent opportunity to remind voters of just how hard Fisher has worked to ban guns and restrict their gun rights, and why he should never be allowed to ascend to the position of United States Senator.

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

Additional Information:
Summary of Notes and Minutes, Meeting of Friday, December 17, 1993, Rough Draft Proposal for Internal Memo and Five Year Plan, HANDGUN CONTROL, INC.

Following is a summary of Notes and Minutes of a meeting held December 17, 1993 at the Western Regional Office of Handgun Control, Inc. for the purpose of discussing strategy and defining an agenda for the formulation of gun control legislation in 1994 and the following five years. The document is on Handgun Control stationary, and is marked CONFIDENTIAL-Not For General Distribution. Also included is an attachment on HCI stationary which is marked:

HCI - Confidential Document DO NOT DISTRIBUTE OR COPY/NOT FOR GENERAL CIRCULATION. The attachment is also marked CONFIDENTIAL, and Confidential Information for use by Lobbyists or Senior Officers Only. The attachment is dated December 29, 1993 and contains details relative to the Notes and Minutes of the December 17, 1993 meeting. The material was distributed to the following individuals:

Richard Aborn David Birenbaum Lee Fisher (emphasis added)
Larry Lowenstein John Phillips Helen Raiser
Maurice Rosenblatt Jeanne Shields Odile Stern
N.T. Shields Sarah Brady Stanley E. Foster
John Hechinger Edward O. Welles Charles J. Orasin
Lois Hess Sandy Cooney Amy Weitz

The contents of the document were to be forwarded to the national office for reference, and a series of brainstorming sessions are to be held at the White House through the winter of 1994. A brief discussion on Fundraisers and Press Releases follows, with reference to swaying votes for Sen. Feinstein's Assault Weapon Ban, and the drafting of a letter of support to Rep. Charles Schemer to offer additional materials for his use in testimony and press conferences. The document urges HCI members to continue their high profile supporting gun control issues and to continue with their praise of President Clinton, Attorney General Janet Reno, and Senator Dianne Feinstein for their political courage in standing up to the Gun Lobby. The following is summarized from the content of the general document and the Attachment.


A)Ban of all clips holding over 6 bullets.

B)Ban on all semiautos which can fire more than 6 bullets without reloading.

C)Ban on possession of parts.

D)Ban on all pump shotguns capable of being converted to over 5 shots without reloading.

E)Banning of all machine guns, destructive devices, short shot guns/rifles, assault weapons, Saturday Night Specials and Non- Sporting ammunition.

F)Arsenal licensing for possession of multiple guns and large amounts of ammunition.

G)Elimination of the Department of Civilian Marksmanship.

H)Ban on possession of a firearm within a home located within 1000 feet of a schoolyard.

I)Ban on all realistic replicas/toy guns or non-firearms capable of being rendered realistic.

J)The right of victims of gun violence to sue manufacturers and dealers to be affirmed and perhaps, aided with money from government programs.

K)Taxes on ammo, dealers licenses and guns to offset the medical costs to society.

L)The eventual ban of all semi-automatics regardless of when made or what caliber.


The memo describes subjects discussed during a "brain storming" session conducted after the formal meeting. The focus of this session was to guide gun control initiatives over the next five years. The document states that these subjects may not be politically feasible ideas for 1994, but the members are confident that with continued pressure they can achieve most if not all of these goals within the next five years. These goals are summarized below:


1) National licensing of all handgun purchases.

2) License for rifle and shotguns. Strict licensing should be mandatory for all firearms, whether handguns or not.

3) State licenses for ownership of firearms. It is reasonable to require that all individual must prove that they require a firearm.

4) Reduction of the number of guns to require an arsenal license. The suggestion is that the number be reduced to possession of greater than 5 guns and 250 rounds of ammunition.

5) Arsenal license fees. It is reasonable to require an annual fee of at least $300.00, with a cap of $1,000.00.

6) Limits on arsenal licensing. No license permitted in counties with populations in excess of 200,000.

7) Requirement of Federally Approved storage safe for all guns.

8) Inspection licensing of all safes. This would be a good revenue source, and would be conducted yearly.


9) Ban on manufacturing in counties with a population of more than 200,000.

10) Ban on all military style firearms. This will be based on a "point system" and hopefully can be expanded to include high powered air guns and paint ball weapons.

11) Banning of any machine gun parts or parts which can be used in a machine gun.

12) Banning the carrying of a firearm anywhere but home or target range. There should be a federal mandate to the states regulating the carrying of firearms.

13) Banning replacement parts.

14) Elimination of the Curio relic list. A gun is a gun.

15) Control of ammunition belonging to certain surplus firearms.

16) Eventual ban on handgun possession. We think that within 5 years we can enact a total ban on possession at the federal level.

17) Banning of any ammunition that fits military guns (post 1945).


18) Banning of any quantity of smokeless powder or black powder which would constitute more than the equivalent of 100 rounds of ammunition.

19) Ban on the possession of explosive powders of more than 1 kilogram at any one time.

20) Banning of high powered ammo and wounding ammo.

21) A national license for ammunition.

22) Banning or strict licensing of all re-loading components.

23) National registration of ammunition or ammo buyers.

24) Requirement of special storage safe for ammunition and licensing.


25) Restricting gun ranges to counties with populations less than 200,000.

26) Special licensing of ranges. The range must have the written permission of all property owners within 7 miles.

27) Special range tax to visitors. $85.00/day/person proposed.

28) Waiting period for rentals on pistol ranges.


29) Banning gun shows.

30) Banning of military re-enactments. This includes survivalist and paramilitary, as well as WW1, WW2, and Civil War re-enactment's on federal land. We hope to encourage the states to prohibit them from state and county lands as well.

31) Making unlawful the assembly of more than 4 armed individuals who are not peace officers or military.

32) Begin to curb hunting on all public lands.

33) Making gun owners records and photos a matter of public record.

34) Random police checks for weapons (like sobriety checkpoints).


The document goes on to say that with the present allies in the White House and Congress it is now possible to remove guns from public hands. Following is a discussion on the banning of military accouterments (military clothing, camouflage, pouches, gear, boots and other combat gear). There is also a discussion on the formation of strict guidelines for violence in television and the movies. This includes the provision for suing the makers of shows deemed violent in content. If the industry will not regulate itself, then there should be an independent branch of government to determine which scenes cause more harm than good to the public, and regulate the number of violent acts portrayed.

The document concludes with a discussion on the total elimination of arms from society. This includes the control of dangerous literature. The statement is made that there is too much irresponsible material covered by the first amendment, and that there can be such a thing as too much freedom where literature poses a serious threat to the public safety.



The document includes an attachment which gives an overview of the proposed license fees for 1994/1995 Gun Control Proposals. This includes an escalation of fees, which start at $50.00 in the first year, and conclude with fees of $625.00 in the eighth year. The enclosure also covers a $1,000.00 fine and 6 months jail for failure to acquire a license, followed by recommendations of $5,000.00 and 12 months jail for failure to maintain a license, and $15,000.00 and 18 months jail for failure to turn over guns for destruction after lapse of license. Failure to re-new a license or notify issuing authority of change of status would be considered a felony. All firearms owned would then be considered contraband and could be confiscated. There is also a schedule for the licensing of rifles and shotguns, and the proposal for arsenal licensing. This includes a $300.00 to $1,000.00 annual fee, and $200.00/gun if over the prescribed limit. There is also a provision for assessing $100.00/50 rounds over the limit for ammunition. Included is an outline covering the suggested fee schedule for a Safe License of $228.00 to $392.00 per year, and Ammunition Registration and License of $55.00 to $117.00 per year to purchase ammunition. Other fees discussed include: Federal Re-Loading License of $130.00 to $175.00 per year. Ammunition Safe License Fee of $55.00 to $75.00 per year. Range License fee of $12,000.00 to $15,000.00 per year. Range Tax fee of $85.00 to $100.00 per person per visit. Inspection License fee of $588.00 to $688.00 per year.


The attachment recommends members suggest the following to key politicians and the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury: Increase dealers license to $600.00 to $700.00 per year. Increase Title 1 Manufacturing License fee to $6,200.00 to $9,400.00 per year. And increase Title 2 Manufacturing License fees to $13,000.00 to $18,000.00 per year.


A recap of the fiscal impact of the licensing of firearms ownership is shown to be $1,556.00 to $3,473.00 per year. The document states that this cost is not unreasonable, since it would offset considerably the estimated $60 billion in medical and social costs related to gun violence. Ultimately, such action would take the glamour and attraction out of firearms ownership and decrease the numbers of gun owners to a manageable number.


The document states that it is estimated the referenced proposals would allow us to take guns out of the hands of an estimated 30 million unsuitable or ineligible individuals. The fees for the remaining qualifying individuals would additionally reduce the number to about 14 million gun owners. The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of licenses to zero.


Revenue generated from fees could be used to institute a mandatory national educational campaign in the public schools (K thru 12) to de-glamorize guns and gun ownership, and to tell the truth about the Second Amendment. Fees could also be used to mount a well funded and concerted campaign to add credence to the calls for eliminating the Second Amendment entirely via constitutional amendment. Also, fees would provide a revenue source for the cost of enforcement of the new laws by Federal and State Law Enforcement officials, and provide an offsetting monetary fund to provide medical services and legal services to victims of gun violence. There is also a recommendation for the establishment of a national toll free number for reporting violators of the new gun restrictions and non-licenses. A sum may be set aside for cash rewards for tips which result in conviction.

There is discussion on additional revenue sources via gun related activities (range fees, taxes, etc.), It is estimated that there will be a drop of 40% in such activities in the first year, and an additional drop of 35% the second year.


The attachment discuses legal actions and possible new revenue sources, and states that pending issues are to be given at the appropriate time to the LCAV office for investigation as to feasibility, implementation, and public reaction. At no time should these suggestions be made public before it can be ascertained what the current public reaction might be, and have this information given to the LCAV attorneys before release.

There will be a concerted P.R. campaign over the period of several years, which will include press releases, press conferences, direct lobbying, and constant pressure via the national media. The aim of this campaign is to change the way America thinks in regards to guns and gun owners. Once gun owners in America have been identified through a verifiable source, it would be possible to seek further compensation for the victims of gun violence through legal means. As a group, the gun nuts would constitute an identifiable entity for class action suits and other legal actions for compensation.

It would be expected that gun groups and lobbying groups such as the NRA would encourage non-compliance. Thus, nationally recognized groups will be technically "organizing to break the law". Once this can be proven, these groups will be vulnerable to lawsuits based on the RICO statute and drained of their financial resources through repeated legal action. There is a discussion on the suing of the makers of toy/replica guns, toy weapons, and violent entertainment. The threat of legal action would convince many manufacturers and distributors that other non-violent related toys would be more worthwhile to sell. Items could include: Violent video games, television shows, movies, video tapes, water guns, super soakers, electronic noise guns, replica guns, toy weapons like swords, batons, and martial arts items. The attachment concludes by stating that Tort law as we know it may not have to undergo a change in order to facilitate these actions. It is not necessary to actually win in order to affect change, since the constant threat of legal action will induce change in the way people do business.

A Quick Guide to Arguing With The Gun Zealots

There is also a page on Handgun Control stationary titled "A QUICK GUIDE TO ARGUING WITH THE GUN ZEALOTS" which lists strategic points to remember for public speaking. It points out that the general public is confused between semi-automatic and automatic weapons and that this confusion can work in HCI's favor. Constantly dropping the words submachine gun, fully automatic, machine gun, military weapon, and high tech killing machine are good debater's tricks used to instill a sense of dread over these weapons. Other points include a discussion on semi-automatic weapons, endangerment of children, enough is enough, and there are too many guns in the U.S. There is also a brief listing of "Points of Victory in the Past Ten Years".

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