Chris Finney must be feeling rather schizophrenic lately.
The local attorney and arch-conservative activist is offering his services free of charge to the NAACP’s Cincinnati chapter, where he is chair of legal redress. His duties include assisting the chapter’s efforts at advancing the interests of the area’s African-American residents.
At the same time, Finney continues his legal work for ex-State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. and their political group, the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST). His latest effort there is a lawsuit trying to overturn the Ohio law prohibiting former state lawmakers from lobbying in Columbus for one year after they leave office.
The lead feature article in the new issue of The New Yorker focuses on the anti-gang program Cincinnati implemented two years ago. John Seabrook's "Don't Shoot" is a long, well-researched and well-written story about David Kennedy, who devised the "Ceasefire" crime-fighting model in Boston, and his experiences here implementing C.I.R.V. (Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Crime).
The push to privatize services traditionally provided by government is the focus of a community forum slated for next week.
Since the Reagan era, privatization — or the outsourcing of public services to the private sector — has been touted as a way to make government more efficient and less costly. Critics, however, allege it is a form of union-busting that often leads to lower wages for workers and reduced accountability to the public.
Six months ago today, 26 children and adults were slaughtered at the hands of Adam Lanza and a semi-automatic Bushmaster XM12 E2S rifle inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., one of the deadliest school shooting massacres in U.S. history. As parents, friends, family and gun control advocates around the country mourn and commemorate the loss of life, Ohio gun rights advocates are worried about something else.
Their concern: how to make it easier for Ohio citizens to obtain high-round magazines for their semi-automatic weapons.
A new Ohio House Bill introduced by State Rep. John Becker (R-Union Township) could, if passed, allow people to purchase high-round magazines for semi-automatic weapons, removing language from the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) that currently restricts use of magazines exceeding 31 rounds for semi-automatic weapons.
Specifically, the proposed bill would remove the definition of "automatic firearm" from section 2923.11 from the ORC that currently qualifies a weapon traditionally defined as a semi-automatic firearm (which operated by firing only once for each pull of the trigger) as an automatic firearm under Ohio law when used with a magazine holding greater than 31 rounds of ammunition.
Gun rights advocates are in favor of deleting the line because qualifying a semi-automatic as an automatic weapon under Ohio law (dependent on magazine size) subjects gun owners to greater background checks and stricter purchasing restrictions, which they consider an unlawful hassle and burden.
Jim Irvine, Chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, says that the sentence Becker has proposed to remove is one that inherently conflicts the actual definition of an automatic weapon; he says it doesn't make sense to qualify a semi-automatic weapon under the same umbrella as an automatic weapon when the two are entirely different types of firearms.
He says that the issue is one of convenience for most semi-automatic gun owners, including himself. "Loading up magazines can take time," he says. "When I go to the shooting range I want to use my time up shooting, not reloading."
That extra time, though, is exactly the point of the wording in the ORC, explains Toby Hoover, executive director for the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. Limited magazines were what eventually stopped the Arizona gunman who shot former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords because a bystander was able to attack the shooter when he dropped a magazine while trying to reload.
Hoover asserts that gun rights advocates like Irvine are being subversive in their reasons for wanting to change the changed law.
She says the legal issue is not that the ORC is trying to directly equate semi-automatic weapons to automatic weapons — they clearly operate differently — but that grouping them together using that magazine restriction is a common-sense way to define them both as dangerous, unnecessary forms of firearms that simply shouldn't be readily accessible to the average gun owner. Semi-automatic weapons are extremely easy to purchase in Ohio, she says, while purchasing automatic weapons involves many more complicated restrictions and regulations.
"I'm just really upset with the way they [Ohio Republicans and gun lobbyists] are ignoring the fact that people in Ohio want gun restrictions. They're just going the opposite direction," she says. "If they're really concerned about the wording of the law, just have them maybe separate the definitions but keep the restrictions the same."
Ohio is one of several states monitor magazine limits on semi-automatic weapons, she explains, so it's not unusual at all that the ORC does so.
Adam Lanza, Sandy Hook's shooter, had several 30-round magazines on him and was also carrying two handguns. It's estimated he used somewhere between four and 10 magazines during the shootings, which took place over a matter of minutes.
The bill has been assigned to the House's Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security committee, where it currently awaits hearing
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will appear in next week's Northside 4th of July Parade as part of a nationwide tour supporting responsible gun legislation, according to parade organizers.
Giffords was scheduled to be in town on July 4 as part of a gun-violence prevention tour called The Rights and Responsibilities Tour, and her team reached out to the Northside parade organizers with an interest in participating in something celebratory, according to Northside 4th of July Parade co-coordinator Ollie Kroner.
The former Congresswoman from suburban Arizona was the victim of an assassination attempt in Tucson, Ariz., Jan. 8, 2011 that killed six and injured 12. Giffords was shot in the head but has recovered some of her ability to walk, speak and write. She resigned from Congress about a year after the shooting and has focused on gun-safety measures. Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, founded the Americans for Responsible Solutions political action committee, which advocates for candidates that support responsible policies that protect both the public and the rights of gun owners.
The Rights and Responsibilities Tour began in Nevada July 1 and was scheduled to make stops in Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota and Ohio.
Northside parade co-coordinator Chuck Brown says he was contacted by a Democratic Party representative who then offered the Northside parade as an option for Giffords to make a public appearance while she's in town. Brown says the plan is to put together a press conference in the parade staging area for Giffords' cause.
"This is an amazing thing," Brown says. "We feel honored, and I think most people in Northside — I can't speak for everyone — but in general I think we're pretty empathetic to her message. Most people I know would agree that there must be something done about gun violence and she's a figure that I think people can really identify with. I think she is an inspiration for a lot of people in the way that she's willing to be visible and take a stand."
In a statement kicking off the tour, Giffords' husband, Kelly, said: “I’ve been around guns my whole life, and I know that as an American, my right to own a firearm goes hand in hand with my obligation to be a responsible gun owner and to do my part to make sure guns don’t fall into the hands of criminals or dangerously mentally ill people. Gabby and I are excited to hit the road this summer and meet so many of the great Americans who are standing with us to fight for common-sense solutions to prevent gun violence and protect our rights.”
The Northside 4th of July Parade will take place noon July 4 and travel south on Hamilton Avenue through the Northside business district.
CityBeat reached out to Giffords' people for comment and will update this blog when we hear back.
Today’s issue of The Whistleblower – a gossipy Web-based newsletter – published the home address of U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Price Hill), who voted in favor of the recent health care reform bill. The newsletter suggests opponents stage a protest at his house on Sunday.
Amid all the debate over a recent proposal to tax panhandlers, some people have wondered whatever happened to Cincinnati’s requirement that all beggars get city-issued I.D. badges. In a little-noticed decision, an appellate court struck down that provision more than two years ago.
A unanimous City Council vote on Wednesday to pass a resolution officially representing Cincinnati's opposition to the proposed H.B. 203, Ohio's own version of controversial "Stand Your Ground" laws, is part of a statewide advocacy effort to oppose loosening restrictions on the use of deadly force.
The vote puts Cincinnati in the middle of a national dialogue that's been ongoing since the death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., in 2012.
The bill, introduced by House Republicans on June 11, contains several revisions to the state's gun laws, the most controversial of which is the proposal to expand the circumstances in which a person has no duty to retreat from a threatening situation before using force in self-defense. Those in opposition to the bill worry that change will encourage vigilante justice and give gun owners a false sense of entitlement in using their firearms in otherwise non-violent situations.
The bill's language also loosens restrictions on concealed carry permits and would make it easier for individuals subject to protection orders to obtain handguns.
State Rep. Alicia Reece spoke at a Wednesday press conference at City Hall to support Cincinnati's formal opposition to the bill. Reece, also president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, is part of its statewide campaign to garner enough opposition to H.B. 203 to present to Gov. John Kasich and other legislative leaders.
She says OLBC has already collected about 5,000 petitions and hopes to obtain more than 10,000 by the time the Ohio House of Representatives resumes regular sessions on Oct. 2.
Reece and Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who sponsored the resolution, insist that Ohio's self-defense laws are already strong enough to protect those who face physical threats from others. In 2008, then-Gov. Ted Strickland signed Ohio's "Castle Doctrine" into law, which stripped homeowners of the duty to try to retreat in threatening situations and gives them the "benefit of the doubt" when they injure or kill a person who enters their residence or vehicle.
"While many states around the country which have Stand Your Ground laws are looking at ways in which they can repeal those laws, or change those laws, unfortunately Ohio is moving backwards by trying to implement Stand Your Ground laws, which has become one of the most polarizing issues not only in the state of Ohio, but in the country," said Reece at Wednesday's press conference.
The efficacy of stand-your-ground laws to reduce violence is widely debated; several researches insist that the laws actually cause an increase in homicides. Mark Hoekstra, an economist with Texas A&M University, published a study that found homicides increase 7 to 9 percent in states that pass stand your ground laws, compared to states that didn't pass laws over the same period. His study found no evidence the laws had an effect on deterring crime during the time period. Those statistics are difficult to gauge, however, because some homicides are legitimately considered "justifiable" while others may just be the result of the "escalation of violence in an otherwise non-violent situation," he told NPR in January.
H.B. 203 is currently waiting to be heard in front of the Policy and Legislative Oversight committee. See an analysis of the bill below: