Plain Dealer editorial on restaurant carry offers proof of the power of grassroots gun groups

by Ken Hanson, Esq.

Saturday April 23, 2011 marked a personal milestone for me. On this day, I personally became enough of a pain-in-the-ass to The Cleveland Plain Dealer that my name earned search meta-tag status on In a hysterical (in both the "funny" sense and "foaming at the mouth, chewing the carpet" sense) editorial column, Plain Dealer columnist Brent Larkin lamented the possibility that the state and federal constitutional right to self-defense might extend to restaurants.

To celebrate this achievement, my family and I went to dinner and a movie. ("Hop," and it was a really bad movie. Not that you asked.) During dinner at Applebees I courageously managed to avoid becoming falling down drunk. Or even under the influence of alcohol. I have cleared my calendar for Monday and Tuesday for what I am sure will be a flood of interviews with publications such as The Plain Dealer, reporting on how I somehow found the moral and emotional strength to eat in a restaurant granted a liquor license without getting into a massive brawl with other patrons.

Perhaps most illustrative of Larkin's disconnect from reality is the portion of his article where he (in his mind) taunts the legislators considering the restaurant-carry bill via the brilliant (in his mind) non-sequitur of allowing concealed carry in the Capitol building. The clear, but unspoken, conclusion is that legislators would find such a law outrageous, since the only possible result would be legislators gunned down on the House floor over policy differences. Blood in the streets, restaurants, AND Capitol!

Oh how Mr. Larkin's head would explode if he read the amendments already circulated in Ohio's General Assembly, which would, among other things, allow legislators and their staff to carry in the Capitol building, and allow citizens to bring firearms in their cars into the Capitol parking garage. How he would weep if he examined the Revised Code and discovered there is no law prohibiting OPEN carrying/possession of firearms in the Capitol. (Indeed, there is only a rule against firearm possession promulgated by the Capitol Square Advisory Board. While it is against the law to break a rule of the CSAB, this has already been shown to be an unenforceable proposition, given the numerous instances of open carry marches/possession of firearms during Tea Party/9-12 rallies on Capitol Square.)

So in Mr. Larkin's world, the only bulwark standing between his peaceful Nirvana and a Capitol awash in blood is an administrative rule that is, in practice, impossible to enforce.

Back on planet Earth, the following day saw me receiving numerous congratulatory emails, forwarding Mr. Larkin's article. While journalistic tradition would grant me the boon of an op-ed response in The Plain Dealer, given Mr. Larkin's use of me personally to embody a pro-gun foil, I found myself mustering zero motivation to refute his column via a Plain Dealer-published op-ed.

Unlike anti-gun groups and their shills, the pro-gun grassroots movement is all-volunteer. You will not see BFA getting large Joyce Foundation grants in order to pay their personnel a salary. Instead, you see us taking unpaid time away from our jobs, burning our own $4 per gallon gasoline, working for a cause we believe in. There is no force on Earth that can match that, including the full might of The Plain Dealer editorial page. My interview quote to The Columbus Dispatch's Jim Siegel, the one Mr. Larkin took such exception to, is illustrative of this.

A typical reporter interview starts with a phone call to my cell phone, along the lines of "I am doing a story on (restaurant carry) (car carry reform) (whatever.)" I first try to put that reporter into contact with someone within their local media market, including my own market of Columbus. (Admittedly, this is a bit of passing the buck on my part.) More frequently, reporters employ the tactic of "I have a deadline in five minutes and need a comment......" This is usually secret code for "I have written the story already and need a token quote from a viewpoint contrary to the editorial position of the story."

Jim Siegel of The Columbus Dispatch is a consummate professional, and in my dealings with him over the last four years he has always conducted himself with class and dignity. Mr. Siegel does not employ such tactics, and is always (in my experience) fair in his coverage. This doesn't change the fact that when these reporters call, I (or another BFA person) is likely driving a kid to soccer, working their paying job, doing laundry etc. The mundane daily activities of a volunteer being juggled in the background while talking to a reporter.

So that is what we are dealing with here. A comment made by a volunteer to a reporter while the volunteer is on a cell phone while driving in traffic now triggers a personalized response from the full resources of The Plain Dealer editorial page.

Could there be any clearer indication we are winning?

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.

FLASHBACK October 3, 2005: Plain Dealer's Brent Larkin admits they don't read legislation before editorializing

FLASHBACK October 17, 2005: Plain Dealer's Brent Larkin on HB347 editorial: 'We were wrong'

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