SAF National Gun Rights Policy Conference: Gun Rights Proponents Meet as Absentee Voting Begins

By Ken Hanson

The Second Amendment Foundation's (SAF) National Gun Rights Policy Conference was held at the beautiful Sheraton Crescent Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona this past weekend. I had the honor of attending on behalf of Buckeye Firearms Association and was one of the presenters during the state rights panel. This three-day conference served as a final “pep rally” as pro-gun teams headed into the championship game – the 2008 Presidential Election. The first quarter, absentee voting, was kicking off as the conference wrapped up.

I was last in the Phoenix area in 1991 when I went to Scottsdale for a conference, and quite honestly a lot has changed. I don’t want to open up an unrelated debate here, so I will simply quote one of the Speakers from the Arizona state group. When talking about all the great things to do locally, encouraging us to get out and patronize local establishments, he quipped “and if you drive 7 miles north of Phoenix you can visit the Mexican border.” For those of you not in on the joke, Phoenix is actually about 3 hours North of the Mexico border.

And not that it is relevant, but I have to share that the hotel security guy was fairly nervous, as the gun rights conference was being hosted at the hotel at the same time as a Rap talent search. I smiled and told him not to worry, and indeed I personally observed the attendees intermingling and having many a polite conversation.

The state panels were among the first presentations of the conference, and it struck me that for the first time in my memory, Ohio was one of the highlights of the conference. People are still talking about our SB184, and many were well aware of the Clyde decision, even though it was only a week old at that point. In fact, walking into the hotel on registration day, the first person I ran across was Heller attorney Alan Gura, who immediately offered congratulations on the Clyde case. I think we can safely say that Ohio was the only presentation on the state level (i.e. besides the Heller presentations) that gave the attendees encouragement about the future of gun rights. My presentation was interrupted no fewer than 8 times for applause.

The news from other states, and other state groups not presenting, was somewhat disheartening. Most reported fighting holding or defensive actions only. People were constantly warning “if you don’t think this can’t happen in your state, you are wrong.” Equally concerning was the lack of widespread attendance at this conference. Although similar in numbers to prior conferences, the attendees were overwhelmingly from Arizona. This is somewhat disheartening, given that Phoenix Sky Harbor is the 6th busiest airport in the nation and has reasonable airfares from any point in the U.S.

Equally concerning to me was my discovery that so few people have long-term memberships in pro-gun groups. For instance, to be a voting member of the NRA, you need to be a life member or at least 5 annual memberships in a row. Quite a few people were NRA members but were not voting members, and they indicated they joined only when something bad happened in their own state.

Folks, the rights advocacy business is a full-time job. Join your groups, participate actively, and stay joined. This reminded me I had intended to get a hunting license last year, even though I do not hunt. I need to get down and pass the hunter ed test and get this taken care of. As if to remind me of this, one group organization pointed out that the number of hunting licenses and number of concealed carry licenses in their state is almost equal, but there is very little “cross-pollination” between the two lists. This is one area where we continue to fail. All firearm rights are equivalent, and I need to be supporting the hunter the same as the hunter needs to support the concealed carry licensee, and the clay shooter needs to be doing the same.

The main focus of the conference was the Presidential race, and yes, Virginia, there is a threat to your gun rights. While it is tough to motivate people in what many view as a lesser of evils race, (several groups reported they had considered BFA’s approach, endorsing Palin) it was eye opening to see what can only be described as a coordinated national effort to cover up the fact that Emperor Obama has no clothes, er, guns.

Despite the only objective evidence indicating that Obama=Schumer=Kennedy, many in the mainstream media and among national groups are trying desperately to paint Obama as benign on the gun rights issue. My first indication that things were far more serious than I had first suspected was when the legislative chair of the Illinois group said it plainly: "Folks, I lobbied when Obama was a state senator, and I’m here to tell you there is zero doubt he is anti-gun and will act on an anti-gun agenda."

Despite the survey responses, voting record and personal testimonials, there is a concerted effort occurring to mislead gun voters. Whether it is Joe Biden, union leaders, Newsweek, or faux gun groups like AHSA “endorsing” Obama, they are actively trying to pull the wool over your eyes so you don’t see the wolf in our midst.

Don’t buy the lie.

I also had the honor of serving on this year’s resolution committee, which considered five resolutions to report to the conference. One notable resolution was one calling on any pro-gun group considering post-Heller lawsuits to coordinate such efforts with SAF and attorney Alan Gura, as there is a very well-established roadmap the litigation needs to follow. One group filing the wrong suit too early and those plans are wrecked.

I spent most of the last morning out talking to other groups, talking about their voter guides, membership levels and the plans for upcoming elections. All in all, we are doing the right things here in Ohio, and have a lot to be proud of with several areas of leadership, including content, email list size and numbers of handouts reaching gun owners. As usual, the SAF did an excellent job presenting a well run conference, and attendees returned home with mutual promises to continue to fight the good fight.

Ken Hanson is a gun rights attorney in Ohio and is the attorney of record for Buckeye Firearms Foundation, which filed an amicus brief in the Heller case. He is the author of The Ohio Guide to Firearm Laws, is a certified firearms instructor and holds a Type 01 Federal Firearms License.

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