Questions that should have been asked at anti-gun press conference

Editor's Note - The following op-ed originally appeared at Republished with permission.

by Maggie Thurber | Ohio Watchdog

Democrats used an upcoming Republican fundraiser to attack Second Amendment rights and other gun laws in Ohio. Reps. Ted Celeste and Tracy Maxwell Heard (Democrats from the Columbus area) held a press conference Thursday where they blasted Rep. Margaret Conditt's upcoming "Shoot for Liberty" fundraiser at the Middletown Sportsman Club on May 12. Conditt is a Republican representing the 55th House District in Butler County.

Also present were Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence and Brian Rothenberg, executive director of Progress Ohio, a nonprofit organization that advocates for progressive policies.

They want Conditt to cancel her fundraiser where supporters are encouraged to "BYOGun" and will be given an opportunity to shoot a machine gun.

This was nothing more than sheer political posturing as the questions that should have been asked would have revealed.

Referring to the February shooting at Chardon High School, Celeste said, "To parade about a fundraiser where supporters can shoot semi-automatic weapons for pleasure is distasteful and offensive to the memory of those students who were senselessly killed."

How is a fundraiser offensive to the memory of students who were killed? Is it even likely, absent coverage like this, that the families and friends of those students are even aware of a fundraiser that is taking place 260 miles from Chardon High School? Did Celeste speak to the families of the students before presuming to speak on their behalf?

Why does he consider this to be distasteful? Are gun deaths in general a reason for others to not shoot or for such sporting clubs to hold events where guns are used?

Or is this just a convenient emotional appeal that fits with his agenda to limit gun usage in the state?

"Our families have the right to be free from gun violence," said Hoover. "The gun lobby's vision for Ohio is any gun, anyone, anywhere, and then let them be judge and jury if they feel threatened. These laws are threats to our freedom from violence."

Apparently I missed the 'right to be free from gun violence' in the Bill of Rights. But is this really an accurate depiction of the gun lobby's vision for Ohio? The Buckeye Firearms Association, for instance, is "dedicated to defending and advancing the right of Ohio citizens to own and use firearms for all legal activities" (emphasis added). Does [s]he have any evidence that the gun lobby wants just anyone to have a gun?

How does this fundraiser pose a threat to the 'freedom from violence' that it should be canceled?

Rothenburg didn't like the 'bring your own gun' wording on the invitation. "There is a level of maturity and common sense that is lacking in this invitation. It hasn't been done before and there is a reason for it. Legislators need to be cognizant that this type of radical single issue politics leads to irresponsible laws like 'Stand your ground' in Florida. She should really cancel this event, it demeans the office," he said.

Is 'because it's not been done before' really a reason to dismiss a new idea? Political fundraising is all about coming up with new and inventive ways to get people to donate. Considering the increased interest in gun ownership these days, isn't this actually a very creative and novel idea to raise money?

Of course, Rothenburg is allowed to express his opinion that the invitation lacks maturity. But is his opinion a reason to call for the cancellation of an event he probably would never attend?

How does the fundraiser equate to "this type of radical single issue politics?" Does he really believe that holding a Shoot for Liberty fundraiser will result in Ohio passing a 'Stand your ground' law? And how, exactly, does he see that happening? Does he think that having citizens attend this fundraiser will suddenly cause a majority of politicians to introduce and pass an Ohio 'Stand your ground' bill?

And here I thought Democrats didn't believe in a slippery slope.

Just how such an event demeans the office is never explained. Nor is he asked how this fundraiser is demeaning to the office of state representative but, for example, appearing on a late night comedy show isn't demeaning to the office of the president.

Perhaps the most controversial comment came from the Rev. Tim Ahrens of First Congregational Church who said, "In a nation where (the) number of preschoolers killed by guns in 2008 (88) and in 2009 (85) was nearly double the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2008 (41) and 2009 (48), we don't need to arm more people and allow for more freedom to carry individual weapons of mass destruction."

Did anyone think to ask him if the reason more law enforcement officers weren't killed was because they were armed while preschoolers are not? Is he really advocating against the Second Amendment? Does he really believe that a gun is the equivalent to a bomb — an actual weapon of mass destruction? What does he mean when he says we don't need "more" freedom to carry guns? How does he think that canceling the fundraiser will help prevent the number of preschoolers killed by guns?

These questions, if asked, would have revealed that holding or canceling the fundraiser really would have no effect on the issues or positions the Democrats were advocating. It was sheer political posturing and it does nothing to advance the safety of Ohioans.

Maggie Thurber is an independent journalist and former public official.

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