Ohio gun rights group fires back at anti-lobbying editorial

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A short time ago, I wrote a piece about an editorial that took issue with the lobbying efforts of gun rights groups. The editorial basically blasted pro-gun groups for standing up for Ohioan’s Second Amendment rights but found no fault in gun control groups trying to do the same.

One of the groups they singled out was the Buckeye Firearms Association.

Well, BFA isn’t just rolling over.

The Columbus Dispatch has never been a friend of law-abiding gun owners in Ohio. For as long as I can remember, they’ve used their bully pulpit in support of gun control.

But that’s not surprising. Many, if not most, metropolitan newspapers are staffed by people who support all manner of civil rights, except for the one enumerated as “Amendment II” of the U.S. Constitution.

Here’s our response to the editorial. They changed the headline upon publication.

‘Puppet Masters’ Respond: Dispatch editors need a lesson in basic civics

In a May 22 opinion piece titled “Puppet masters pulling lawmakers strings when it comes to guns in Ohio,” the Dispatch Editorial Board called out Buckeye Firearms Association for having the audacity to advocate for the rights of Ohio’s 4 million gun owners.

They compare us to the “Wizard of Oz,” suggesting we’re an “unseen force calling the shots from behind the curtain.”

But we’re hardly an “unseen force.” We’ve been highly visible in Ohio for two decades and have been openly advocating for Second Amendment rights.

The editors speak of us with derision because we “lobby” for our policy preferences. Do they look with equal derision at lobbyists for labor unions, environmental causes, or civil rights? Do they accuse them of “pulling the strings” of legislators?

Of course not.

Maybe we need to remind the editorial board about the First Amendment, which guarantees the “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

That’s the very definition of lobbying. It’s as American as apple pie. Besides, anti-gun advocates are vocal with lawmakers. Shouldn’t legislators listen to us, too?

We often don’t agree with the Dispatch editors’ opinions, but you don’t see us decrying freedom of the press, do you?

If we had not been limited by the word count allowed for letters to the editor, the broader point I would have made is that elected leaders don’t legislate based on arbitrary polling, surveys, or studies, such as those the Dispatch quoted ad nauseam. They are instead responsive to their constituents — the people who elect them, whose interests they represent and to whom they are accountable. Elections are the only polls that matter.

They are right, and BFA is right to be upset. They were accused of being manipulators, of engaging in shady backroom dealings devoid of anything approaching sunlight. That’s what the phrase “puppet master” means in the political context.

Further, calling The Dispatch out on the double standard is completely justified.

The truth is that plenty of groups lobby lawmakers for things that aren’t politically popular with the general public.  If those groups can do so effectively and convince legislators that it’s in their best interests to back those measures regardless of what the polls say, the measure will likely pass.

If not, it won’t.

The truth of the matter is that gun voters are passionate voters. Gun rights advocates have a long and storied history of being driven largely by that one issue more than others, often using it as a litmus test for how a politician will respond to other challenges. If they back gun rights, they’re more likely to support our other civil liberties.

Whether that’s true or not depends on the lawmaker in question, but that’s the challenge of picking any politician to back.

So while the polling might suggest a given measure is unpopular, that doesn’t matter if backing it doesn’t really cost lawmakers many votes. Gun control advocates are rarely as driven by that issue as gun rights backers are, so their support for a regulation doesn’t really carry as much weight.

The Dispatch editorial board, however, didn’t get that. They were much more interested in lashing out and blaming BFA for being effective in their lobbying efforts.

But that doesn’t make them puppet masters, especially since other lobbying groups often have a similar amount of power on their given issues, but if those lean in a direction that particular editorial board likes, it’s treated as if they’re doing God’s work.

And people wonder why trust in the media is at an all-time low.