25th Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference
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State Briefing 2
“We should be working on building the next generation of the gun rights movement.”
The second state affairs panel opened with remarks from Joe Waldron, CCRKBA legislative affairs director and veteran lobbyist in the Pacific Northwest. Waldron, now based in Florida, discussed the recent flap over a law that prevented physicians from discussing firearms in the home with their patients. The law was struck down on constitutional grounds just weeks after it took effect.
Waldron cautioned the audience that “just because Republicans are in office” it does not mean gun rights are safe. Florida gunowners, he said, have the advantage of former NRA President Marion Hammer in Tallahassee, who heads the Unified Sportsmen of Florida.
He noted that Florida now has put teeth in its pre-emption bill. It requires courts to declare local gun ordinances invalid and prohibits their enforcement. Public officials who knowingly adopt such local ordinances could face fines ranging upwards to $5,000 and possible removal from office.
“Those are the kinds of penalties our political masters understand,” he commented.
Gene Hoffman, chairman of the CalGuns Foundation, said gunowners in his state are jealous of Florida’s preemption statute. He said Californian banned open carry of loaded firearms following a Black Panther incident four decades ago.
On the plus side, he reported that California also had legislation that strengthens the concealed carry permit process. Hoffman then made predictions on which legislation Gov. Jerry Brown was going to sign or veto.
Hoffman also noted that California is the home of the Legal Community Against Violence, an anti-gun attorneys’ organization. This group is working against the opening of gun shops and adoption of legislation to make the process for opening a gun store very cumbersome.
California has no right to keep and bear arms in its state constitution. The McDonald ruling from 2010 that incorporated the Second Amendment to the states provided a solution to that problem.
Next up was Kansas District Court Judge Phillip Journey, a former Kansas state senator and former member of the NRA board of directors. He told the audience that the demographics are against gunowners.
“We should be working on building the next generation of the gun rights movement,” he cautioned.
Journey said the nature of politics has changed, including the necessity of having a presence on the Internet, and on Twitter, Facebook and other on-line services. These are free, and all they take is time, he said.
He told the audience about how Kansas gun rights activists managed to change gun laws in the state, including passage of legislation that legalized machineguns and suppressors. It included overriding a gubernatorial veto, and it took several years to accomplish, but in Kansas they got the job done.
Nowadays, Kansas activists are working to narrow down or eliminate exclusionary zones where firearms are not allowed. It is an incremental process, he said.
Meanwhile, Kansas changed its constitution to strengthen the right to keep and bear arms. Kansas was where the “collectivist theory” of that right originated early in the 20th Century, and last year, the language in the constitution was changed.
But the most important thing, he said, is to bring up the new generation to continue the work of regaining lost gun rights.
Andy Allen, president of the Nebraska Firearms Owners Association, discussed the short history of his group and explained how gunowners are wrestling with anti-gunners in Omaha.
“In Nebraska, I’ve been building coalitions,” he explained. His group has partnered with hunting groups in the state, making a formidable force when dealing with state lawmakers.
“That’s how we can get things going, by building a machine,” he said.
His group is developing funding sources, contacting and educating politicians, and recently with the help of SAF, filed a civil rights lawsuit against Omaha.
Jeff Nass, president of the Wisconsin Firearms Owners, Ranges, Clubs and Educators (FORCE) wrapped up this panel discussion, detailing how concealed carry passed in the Badger State. The organization is all-encompassing and now has a professional lobbyist in Madison to work with state government and state lawmakers.
He recalled how pro-gun Democrats cooperated last year by stopping legislation, and helping to pass a range bill. Wisconsin’s concealed carry law took effect Nov. 1, which he described as an “awesome bill.”
This year, Wisconsin gunowners are looking at so-called “castle doctrine” legislation and range protection. He was not happy that many people consider self-defense a privilege instead of a right.
“That just makes my blood curl as soon as I read that,” he said. “I don’t understand that arrogance.
US Sovereignty and UN
Gottlieb led the panel on US Sovereignty and the United Nations, by talking about the relatively new international gun rights group known as IAPCAR, the International Association for the Protection of Civilian Arms Rights. The organization has gotten support from both SAF and CCRKBA, and the first thing those involved in IAPCAR discovered is that internationally, self-defense has not been given serious attention relating to gun ownership. Attention, he said, had been focused on sporting purposes.
That has changed now, with the creation of local organizations in different countries, including Italy and Germany.
“It’s really exciting to be a part of this,” Gottlieb stated.
Indeed, immediately after the GRPC adjourned, Gottlieb and his wife Julianne flew to Europe for an IAPCAR meeting.
“Self-defense should be a legitimate human right,” he said.
Gary Burris, founder of Federazione Italiana Storia Armi Tiro (FISAT) and a member of the IAPCAR funding committee and Silvia Gentile, FISAT legal counsel, followed Gottlieb with a dual report. Burris said FISAT is the “Second Amendment Foundation” of Italy, and they provide legal services for many people in that country, particularly those seeking licenses to have firearms.
Burris said the situation in Italy is “not bad, because of the work that FISAT is doing.” He travels to Italy two to three times annually, where he does shooting matches and has also involved FISAT in a gun rights lawsuit. He said Silvia “knows more than anyone about gun rights in Italy” and she has a nearly 100% legal track record.
Last year, he said, Gentile managed to change a gun law in Italy that had an impact on imports and exports there. By now, she will have filed a lawsuit against the Minister of the Interior for violation of trade agreements.
Sheldon Clare, president of the National Firearms Association of Canada, reported on progress with gun rights north of the border. The Canadian government, he explained, has shifted its approach to global arms control. In July, the Canadian delegation to the UN sought changes to the arms trade treaty (ATT). They wanted to amend the treaty to include a declaration affirming that small arms have legitimate civilian uses including sporting purposes, hunting and collecting, and they sought to exempt ammunition from the treaty.
While the language “didn’t go as far as I would like,” he said that was “a pretty big step for a Canadian delegation at the UN.”
He called the proposed ATT “a really nasty bit of work that has been slithering through” the UN bureaucracy since 2006.
“Gunowners need to do more at all levels in order to promote more free-thinking ideas,” he said. “International pressure for civilian disarmament is not something that is going to go away easily. Anti-gunners are well-funded and we really need to make an effort to take our case out to the people.”
He said there have been legal troubles for armed citizens in Canada, and his group has helped people fight safe storage laws in that country. He said regulations need to be cleaned up and amended to reduce headaches for Canadian gunowners.
Maj. Gen. D. Allen Youngman USA (ret.), executive director of the Defense Small Arms Advisory Council, finished the panel. His group is a trade association consisting of many US-based military firearms manufacturers.
He focused on international initiatives aimed at civilian small arms trade. He gave a quick overview of some projects that are currently in progress, and then zeroed in on the proposed international ATT, which he said is not a small arms treaty but a conventional arms treaty, and it has not yet been written. There are private drafts, but the treaty has not been written.
Over the past five years, there have been several working groups and initiatives, and every time there are specific themes that emerge. These include a requirement for all nations to adopt export licensing regulations for conventional arms, and the US already has the toughest such regulations on the planet.
The treaty is also likely to define arms more broadly, and “almost certainly include small arms and light weapons” which are not currently required under conventional arms agreements.
It will also be legally binding.
While the treaty is supposed to be about regulating international trade, what it is really about is the pursuit of an anti-firearms ownership agenda. Proponents argue that illegal guns began as legal guns that ended up in the illegal arms traffic. They believe, Youngman said, that the best way to address this problem is to dry up the legal supply of firearms before they enter the illegal pipeline.
However, the European Union also has a role in the international gun control movement, he added. The EU believes tighter gun controls will be “good for business.” But they also want to expand the definition of arms.
In 2009, the US position changed on this proposed treaty. He said the official government position now is to have “a strong, robust treaty that contains the highest possible legally binding standards on the international transfer of weapons.” The reason for this change? There was a change in administrations, and the Obama administration supports this treaty.
The treaty, though, cannot undermine the Second Amendment, he said. That is one of several caveats. This one is reinforced by a letter signed by 58 members of the US Senate, telling the administration to not bring a treaty that infringes on Second Amendment rights.
Youngman noted that the Heller and McDonald rulings have had a significant impact, by sending a signal to delegates that this country really does have Second Amendment rights.
Next: Further coverage of the Gun Rights Policy Conference will include discussions on post-McDonald litigation, personal defense and the justice system, Operation Fast and Furious, and much more.
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