22nd Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference
by Dave Workman
Gun rights activists should be pushing for expanded rights, and keep their eyes open for false flags from faux gun rights groups as they prepare for what may be a showdown on gun rights, both in the Supreme Court and on Capitol Hill if Democrats retain control of Congress and win the White House in 2008.
“Don’t ever forget that you are the gun lobby...”
That’s the message that delegates to the Gun Rights Policy Conference (GRPC) went away with after two days of intense, sometimes humorous panel discussions. Sponsored by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) and the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), with support from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Rifle Association and National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association. Following the awards luncheon on Saturday, Oct. 6, the conference kicked into high gear again with a detailed look at efforts to expand concealed carry rights across the nation.
Scott Kappas, an attorney and author of popular Traveler’s Guide and a Class 3 dealer, told the audience that a cornerstone of so-called “right-to-carry” statutes is state preemption, under which local municipalities cannot make their own ordinances more restrictive than state law. He warned that anti-gun city administrations typically have city attorneys look for loopholes in preemption laws.
“You have to make (such laws) airtight, inclusive and retroactive,” Kappas counseled. “We need to make current preemption laws better.”
He said activists cannot rely on the courts to uphold such laws unless they are specific and cover all the bases. Kappas also said gun rights activists can “bring anti-gunners on board” in efforts to make such preemption laws stronger by “appealing to their sense of power.” State legislators like power, he explained, and they do not care to surrender it, and they look for ways to strengthen it.
“We need to go on the offensive,” he said. “This is one area we can take the fight to them.”
Genie Jennings, national spokeswoman for the Second Amendment Sisters (SAS), gave a background on how that organization was created in reaction to the so-called Million Mom March.
She said that idea was circulated across the Internet by one woman, and it almost immediately gathered momentum.
SAS, Jennings explained, is a single issue organization that believes self-defense is a basic human right. She offered a challenge to other conferees by asking that they help her accomplish a personal mission, the elimination of so-called gun free zones. She proposed that, at public schools, staff, faculty and visiting parents who are licensed to carry should be able to carry. On college campuses, even students who are legally armed should be allowed to carry, she added.
“Concealed carry protects everybody because you can’t tell who is carrying,” Jennings said. “You have to presume everybody is.”
Jeff Knox, operations manager at the Firearms Coalition, rounded out the panel, recalling that his father, the late Neal Knox, used to remind his audiences that “You are the gun lobby.”
“Don’t ever forget that you are the gun lobby,” Knox said. “You are not the foot soldiers of those of us who are the leaders of the gun rights movement. You are the leaders of the gun rights movement. You are the gun lobby.”
But Knox cautioned the audience against becoming elitists. He urged them to not fall into any trap where they agree that people “who are trained, with concealed carry permits” would be the only ones allowed to carry in a school.
“We’ve just said they should ‘allow,’ and that means they can disallow,” he said. “You can’t allow something that is a right. How do you get a license for a right?”
While he acknowledged that training is good, training is not necessary to be safe and reasonable with firearms. Knox suggested that today’s concealed carry laws are designed so poorly in some areas that it is nearly impossible for someone to carry legally all the time. One such “trap” is the gun free zone, and Knox said that the way to fight such zone designations is to tell property owners that they have just made themselves responsible for your individual safety.
In today’s environment, with electronic messaging, e-mail and Internet blogs, getting the word out on this and other subjects is far easier, as the next panel explained in a presentation on Exploiting New Communications Technologies.
Ken Blanchard, author of Black Man With A Gun and a veteran “podcaster,” told the audience that today’s pro-gun message can be spread to an entire new generation, the “20-somethings” who are constantly listening to Ipods and who spend lots of time on-line.
“The gun rights movement is just beginning to catch up on that,” Blanchard observed.
He said recordings, broadcasts and other types of messages can be available to the new generation, who will listen while riding buses, or while stuck in traffic going to and from school or work. Blanchard also noted that “podcasting” is not time sensitive, and most important of all, it is free. It is a means, he explained, for the gun rights movement to reach a new audience so that activists no longer simply “preach to the choir.”
Attorney and author David T. Hardy followed on that theme, explaining his own experience as a “Blogger” who writes a personal Internet column almost on a daily basis. These daily blogs, he said, are great tools for starting debates, getting reactions from readers and perhaps creating a broader discussion about gun rights.
In his case, he noted that help on his initial entry into the “blogosphere” came with help from an Internet tech in Australia. Hardy’s website gets about 1,000 visits each day, and other such blog sites can get many times that number of visits.
Hardy also taught himself to film and as a result, he has created a documentary, “In Search of the Second Amendment.” It was done on what amounted to a shoestring budget, and he suggested that it is possible for anyone to undertake similar projects with a minimum of technical savvy.
Perhaps one of the more successful ventures in modern Internet communications is the Hawaii Reporter, and its founder, Malia Zimmerman, explained how this on-line newspaper was born. It was created to operate “just like a regular newspaper…with news and editorial every day.”
The Hawaii Reporter also picks up articles and news releases from SAF, the NRA and other gun rights groups.
Zimmerman recalled how her challenge of radical left-wing college professor Ward Churchill created a firestorm that ultimately contributed to his being discredited. She was at a press conference, and knew she had perhaps one opportunity to ask a single question, so she simply asked whether he was a Native American as he had intimated when he was hired by a university in Colorado.
Churchill’s reaction to that question was sheer outrage, she recalled. Ultimately, after demanding to know what his heritage had to do “with anything,” he stormed away, and then came back and began shouting at her. Thanks to today’s electronic technology, the episode was captured on video and she said the Hawaii Reporter distributed the video, posted it on-line and was ultimately reported by Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. Earlier this year, Churchill was fired from his teaching job in Colorado.
CCRKBA Executive Director Mark Taff, a self confessed “geek,” briefly explained how simple it is to upload persona videos to YouTube, and spread your message. He noted that CNN actually gets many of its reports from citizens who provide video from their cell phones.
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