Op-Ed: Less Citizen Opposition Means More Guns

On Friday, we were informed that an anti-concealed carry op-ed, written by "Million" Mommer Lori O'Neill, had been printed in the Cleveland Free Times. The letter is not available online, but we did print one of what will likely be many responses from readers.

Now, thanks to a self-defense rights supporter and Free Times reader, the O'Neill letter has been transcribed, and can be read below.

Commentary by Chad D. Baus inserted in blue.

By Lori A. O'Neill

While Ohioans sit on the sidelines, the state legislature is preparing to pass HB12, a concealed carry weapons bill (CCW) that will allow permit holders to carry concealed, loaded handguns virtually everywhere in public.

Is this news? It shouldn't be. The General Assembly in Ohio has attempted to pass a concealed carry weapons bill in every session for the past 10 years or so. According to the Ohio Poll conducted periodically by the University of
Cincinnati to gauge the attitudes of Ohioans on a variety of issues, about 70 percent of us oppose concealed carry. But, judging by how few Ohioans actually express opposition to legislators, no one really cares. At least not until someone you know or love is injured or killed by a gun. Then, you'll care a lot.

Gahanna Deputy Police Chief Larry Rinehart cares a lot. His sister was shot to death two years ago by her estranged husband. He testified before the House and Senate in favor of HB12, noting that as a police officer "I cannot guarantee the safety of any citizens of Gahanna." Rinehart went on to say that "safety is a right and responsibility of the individual. Conceal-and-carry is a tool to be used in an emergency." The police officer also mentioned someone who truly doesn't care what is going on in the General Assembly, and we wish O'Neill and other anti-self-defense extremists would take note: "Criminals carry guns, and they don’t give a hoot what goes on in these chambers." Kate Smith cares too. She testified before the Senate on behalf of her sister Becky, who was a victim of a violent home invasion, which resulted in her dying from a gunshot blast to the back. Smith said that she has no doubt Becky would be alive today if she had a gun.

For the facts about the debunked Ohio Poll O'Neill mentions, click here. And to read about a truly accurate measure of public opinion on the issue, check out the Buckeye State Poll, which shows that 67% of Ohioans approve of concealed carry law with training and background checks, like HB12 will provide.

As a gun-control advocate, it baffles me that so many are blithely unaware of how close we are to having concealed carry in Ohio. The conversations I have with friends, colleagues and acquaintances day after day are telling. About 90 percent of the people I talk to react with shock when they find out that the Ohio House already passed HB12
in March, and that the Senate may do so within weeks. Here's the most common comment: "No, they would never do that, would they?" Yes, my friends, they will. And it will be by more than a two-thirds majority in both houses, setting up a possible override of a Taft veto, if he has the guts to actually veto it. Which is questionable, since Taft is about as dependable as the weather in Ohio.

We also talk to many people who are "blithely unaware" that their civil right to self-defense has been infringed upon so horribly for the past 80 years by state law. We receive letters nearly every day from citizens inquiring as to how they may obtain an Ohio license to carry a concealed firearm, "blithely unaware", to use O'Neill's words, that state law offers them no such opportunity, and will likely result in their arrest. How many women like Deputy Chief Rinehart's sister are now dead, who knew a restraining order wouldn't work against their attacker? How many have been raped? How many robbed, beaten, stabbed, and shot by criminals who don't care whether or not O'Neill wins her fight to continue the ban or not?

We must admit, we are encouraged by Ms. ONeill's optimism (well, it's optimism to US), that HB12 will achieve enough votes to override a veto in the Senate, as it did in the House. And on this small point we agree with her: Bob Taft certainly is undependable. He promised to pass a bill like HB12 over six years ago, and has fought it ever since.

How can our elected representatives pass a piece of legislation that the majority of their constituents oppose? Easy. We elect them, send them down to Columbus, and pay no attention to what they're actually doing on our time and dime. Their special-interest groups, such as the National Rifle Association and Ohioans for Concealed Carry, have carte blanche access to them in the halls of the Statehouse.

First of all, it appears Ms. O'Neill is mistaking the fact that people are not rallying to her cause for proof that they are not paying attention. The more likely scenario (given statewide and nationwide attitudes on self-defense and homeland security these days) is that they just don't agree with the idea that the law-abiding should be rendered defenseless while the bad guys rampage, irregardless of the 20,000+ gun control laws already on the books in our country.

As for "carte blanche access"... representatives of OFCC have seen the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence founder Toby Hoover at the Statehouse on nearly every trip we've made. Ms. O'Neill has testified before Senators. Should the time legislators have spent with these two special interest group representatives also be of concern to Ohioans?

The pro-gun lobby has something ordinary citizens don't -- money and influence -- and the willingness to use them to intimidate politicians into doing their bidding.

O'Neill's conspiracy theories abound. The "pro-gun lobby", Ms. O'Neill, as you like to characterize the NRA and OFCC, is made up of "ordinary citizens" paying $20 or $30 a year, pooling their resources to fight organizations like the Million Mom March, Handgun Control Inc., and Violence Policy Center, groups whose resources originate from an elite few of socialist billionaires. If it's OFCC that has all the money, why is it that only the OCAGV was able to afford a radio ad buy in the expensive Columbus advertising market during last year's fight over HB274? Also, O'Neill seems to be accusing OFCC, a non-profit organization barred from making political contributions, of breaking the law. As for the OFCC PAC, we made a total of $750 in donations prior to last year's elections (which is fully disclosed on this website). Hardly a tool to wield as "intimidation". Most of the donations that are given to the OFCC PAC are used to educate Ohioans on the truth, something O'Neill really should fear.

Case in point: last fall, right before the elections, a poll was conducted in Rep. James Trakas' district on a number of issues. On the issue of concealed carry, 86 percent of Trakas' constituents expressed opposition. We made sure that Trakas was aware of this, but he voted in favor of HB12 anyway.

Why? Because of pressure from his Republican bretheren in the House and from the NRA and Ohioans for Concealed Carry, who contribute to the Republicans in a big way at election time. So, next election cycle, Trakas can use his share of the gun-lobby booty to help finance his re-election campaign. Will his constituents remember his record
on guns? Probably not. Which is why he and others like him continue to pursue a pro-gun agenda, even though they know the folks in their
home districts wouldn't approve.

This letter is beginning to read like a surrender. Perhaps that's because O'Neill sponsored a large eleventh-hour rally on the eve of Trakas' re-election, and pro-Trakas supporters outnumbered O'Neill's little rally by more than 2 to 1. How concerned does O'Neill believe Trakas' constituents are, if they won't even recall his vote on HB12, and won't show up at a protest? Finally, glancing back a moment to O'Neill's former claim that only "pro-gun lobby" has "carte blanche access"... perhaps she would care to explain why she, and not OFCC, has enjoyed time with Rep. Trakas to discuss HB12.

The rush to pass concealed carry is being driven by a paranoid few in our state, who will never feel safe no matter how much firepower they're packing. The fact that most of them live in rural or suburban areas with little violent crime make no difference. They're afraid of their fellow citizens and think the only way to feel safe is to carry a hidden, loaded handgun everywhere. The NRA, in its role as shill for the firearms industry, feeds their fears with dire warnings about imminent government seizure of individuals' weapons and reminders that the police can't protect them. What a bunch of blather.

Here she accuses us of marketing fear... And here she markets in fear:

The fact is that more guns in the hands of more people will lead to more death and injuries from firearms -- a simple and chilling fact that's been established in numerous studies by the Centers for Desease Control and Prevention, a governmental agency not a branch of the Brady Campaign against Gun Violence. But don't take my word for it, go to the CDC website and search for firearms deaths -- the statistics speak for

The truth is, we don't have to create fear in the minds of defenseless Ohioans - it exists naturally, and is fomented as they read and hear new stories of others becoming prey to violent criminals. The reasons concealed carry laws have become so popular across America is because they offer something O'Neill never can: relief from fear. A fighting chance. The ability to refuse to be a victim. The right to self-defense (a little thing recognized by the Ohio constitution).

Even if you don't care how many people die every year from firearms homicides, suicides and accidents, there's a lesson in democracy here. The bottom line is that passage of legislation that enjoys no popular support is only possible when the citizens of a state or country permit it to happen. When we abdicate the power of the majority to the shrill and insistent voices of a tiny minority, they win. In this case, their victory will be accompanied by a bullet.

Lori A. O'Neill is president of the Greater Cleveland Chapter of the Million Mom March.

While we disagree on her assertion that support for concealed carry reform is in the minority, one wonders what Ms. O'Neill thought about the civil rights movement. The majority of this country once were very much against equal rights for other races, and even for women. Would Ms. O'Neill, therefore, have seen tyranny in the 60's civil rights movement or that of women's suffrage? Our fight for the civil right of self-defense is no different. And that is why we will win. And that is why O'Neill is signaling defeat.

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