Run-in changes lawmaker's stance
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Plain Dealer Columnist
It's funny how a gun can in stantly change your perspec tive on things, make you wish you could rewrite history.
State Rep. Michael DeBose, a southside Cleveland Democrat, discovered this lesson the night of May 1, when he thought he was going to die. That's the night he wished he had that gun vote back.
DeBose, who had just returned from Columbus, where he had spent the day in committee hearings, decided to take a short walk up Holly Hill, the street where he has lived with his wife for the past 27 years.
It was late, but DeBose, 51, was restless. The ordained Baptist minister knew his Lee-Harvard neighborhood was changing, but he wasn't scared. The idle, young men who sometimes hang out on his and adjacent streets didn't threaten him.
He is a big man and, besides, he had run the same streets before he found Jesus - and a wife. That night, he just needed a walk.
The loud muffler on a car that slowly passed as he was finishing the walk caught his attention, though. When the car stopped directly in front of his house - three houses from where he stood - he knew there was going to be a problem.
"There was a tall one and a short one," DeBose said, sipping on a McDonald's milkshake and recounting the experience Friday.
"The tall one reached in his pocket and pulled out a silver gun. And they both started running towards me."
"At first I just backed up, but then I turned around and started running and screaming."
"When I started running, the short boy stopped chasing and went back to the car. But the tall boy with the gun kept following me. I ran to the corner house and started banging on Mrs. Jones' door."
It was at that point that the would-be robbers realized that their prey wasn't worth the trouble. Besides, Cheryl, DeBose's wife, and a daughter had heard his screams and had raced out to investigate. Other porch lights began to flicker on.
The loud muffler sped off, and DeBose started rethinking his gun vote.
DeBose twice voted against a measure to allow Ohioans to carry concealed weapons. It became law in 2004.
DeBose voted his conscience. He feared that CCW permits would lead to a massive influx of new guns in the streets and a jump in gun violence. He feared that Cleveland would become the O.K. Corral, patrolled by legions of freshly minted permit holders.
"I was wrong," he said Friday.
"I'm going to get a permit and so is my wife.
"I've changed my mind. You need a way to protect yourself and your family.
"I don't want to hurt anyone. But I never again want to be in the position where I'm approached by someone with a gun and I don't have one."
DeBose said he knows that a gun doesn't solve Cleveland's violence problem; it's merely a street equalizer.
"There are too many people who are just evil and mean-spirited. They will hurt you for no reason. If more people were packing guns, it might serve as a deterrent.
"But there obviously are far deeper problems that we need to address," he added, as he suddenly seemed to realize he sounded like a gun enthusiast.
They say the definition of a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. DeBose's CCW application will bear some witness to that notion.
To reach Phillip Morris:
Previous columns online:
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007
Plain Dealer Article Here
Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap.
Consider this a standing ovation.
Steve Loomis, Zack Reed and George Forbes deserve applause for presenting a united front.
Black and white; police, politician and NAACP.
The police union leader, the councilman and the NAACP president are all going to spend the night in the home where Damon Wells lived before vandals shattered the windows.
Talk about your strange bedfellows.
This is big.
The timing makes it even more incredible: The three men announced their unique slumber party the day after Cleveland police shot and killed a black man who had a gun and resisted arrest.
Weeks ago that shooting would have prompted protests.
After two teens tried to rob Wells at gunpoint and he killed 15-year-old Arthur Buford in self-defense, the tide shifted. For the first time, it wasn't just about race.
Wells is a black man who legally defended himself against two black teens who were on probation for aggravated robbery.
People of all races are fed up with thug behavior. In the last two weeks, I've heard from more than 1,000 readers who said it's time for a change.
This isn't a black problem. It isn't a Cleveland problem. It's everyone's problem - and it's moving to a suburb near you.
The shooting by Wells gave everyone pause. Few see Buford as the victim in this.
Both white and black people can relate to Wells, who is black. They see him solely as a man protecting his life and his home. Race isn't an issue.
We all can relate to Wells. We all want the right to feel safe in our homes, our yards, our neighborhoods.
It's time for anyone on the fence to choose a side. There are only two choices, and there isn't a black side or a white side.
The options are right or wrong. Law and order or lawlessness and chaos.
n the Mount Pleasant area near Wells' home, one out of 100 residents have been robbed or seriously assaulted. Old folks are packing guns for protection.
The leading cause of death for black men 15 to 35 is homicide. Most of them by black males.
In Tuesday's shooting, a dozen witnesses saw the man refuse numerous police orders and struggle. The man had a gun in the car. Some would call that suicide by cop.
A sidewalk shrine is already growing for him. Someone left two Care Bears there.
Zack Reed has the start of a plan to take back the community. Make the Wells home safe. Get churches to sponsor kids for summer jobs. Set up a hot line to report crimes, which means leaders need to emphasize that callers aren't snitches. They are guardians of the 'hood.
Dozens want to help Damon Wells. A fund was set up at Charter One Bank, 16622 Harvard Ave., Cleveland, OH 44128 for Damon and for Jestina Berry, who leases the home.
Reed, Forbes and Loomis are taking action. What's next?
You tell me.
What steps do we take now?
This is the new civil rights movement. Who's up for it?
Join Regina Brett at 9 a.m. on WCPN FM/90.3, where she hosts "The Sound of Ideas" on Fridays.
To reach Regina Brett:
Posted by Tim at 11:01 AM
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
By DAVID ADAMS
As the events of April 16, 2007 unfolded, Virginians and indeed the world watched as the best and the worst of human nature were presented for all to see. We saw Virginians from all walks of life and all backgrounds come together and declare that we all became "Hokies" on that fateful day.
Without question, the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, showed us the darkest side of human nature as he took the lives of 32 fellow students as well as his own. The more we learned about what happened in those early morning hours the more it became clear that Cho was a very troubled individual.
Unfortunately, others exhibited behavior that reflects poorly on human nature. Some individuals and groups with political agendas wasted no time in making their voices heard, even before all of the families of the victims had been notified that their loved one was among the dead.
Less than 24 hours after the shootings, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence issued an e-mail, complete with a fundraising graphic linked back to the organization's Web site, that asked supporters to contact President Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and tell them "It is much too easy for the wrong people to get deadly weapons in this country. It is time for you to take steps to end gun violence to prevent tragedies like the one at Virginia Tech."
Ladd Everitt of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence was quoted in the press the day after the shootings, calling for the introduction of new gun control laws, saying it was much to easy to get a gun in this country.
Not to be outdone, an editorial in The New York Times the day after the incident called for " . . . stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage and such unbearable loss."
THE MAJOR television networks kept asking the question whether the shootings would spur renewed calls for new gun laws, which the gun-control groups and some politicians were all too eager to answer.
It could be said that much of this was driven by the 24-hour news cycle in which we live, where the media are constantly replaying the same footage over and over and seeking comment to fill air time. While this may be true, it is not an excuse. Such an event should not be used to advance a political agenda. We saw this all too often in the '90s. It was unseemly then and it is no more acceptable now.
Contrast the statements of those pushing their gun-control beliefs with the statement of the National Rifle Association (NRA). On the afternoon of the shootings, the NRA issued a statement that simply said "The National Rifle Association joins the entire country in expressing our deepest condolences to the families of Virginia Tech and everyone else affected by this horrible tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families. We will not have further comment until all the facts are known." The Virginia Shooting Sports Association (VSSA), the state NRA affiliate association, issued a similar statement expressing sympathy and prayers for the families and stating that it wanted to know all of the facts before stating what if anything could have prevented the shootings. Both groups refused to answer policy questions in the days immediately following the shootings.
I rarely agree with Gov. Timothy Kaine, but he handled the tragedy with dignity and class. At a news conference on the day after the shooting, Kaine was asked a question about those using the shootings to advance their agenda. The governor responded passionately: "I think that people who want to take this within 24 hours of the event and make it their political hobby horse to ride . . . I've got nothing but loathing for them. To those who want to try to make this into some little crusade, I say take that elsewhere." Well said, Governor.
PRESIDENT BUSH echoed those sentiments when he said now was the time to help people get over their grieving, not a time for a policy debate.
All of this raises a good question. Every time the issue of gun control is mentioned, groups like the Brady Campaign and their followers in Congress call the NRA extreme for their opposition to gun control. After comparing the statements and actions of the Brady Campaign and the NRA immediately following the shootings, which group appears to be the more extreme?
David Adams, president of the Virginia Shooting Sports Association, served as Gov. Jim Gilmore's assistant secretary of education and deputy secretary for higher education.
Posted by Tim at 11:29 AM
Gun control: Worthwhile or not?
By Elizabeth Johnston / A View from the Valley
In the wake of the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech, gun rights have been a point of contention. Some think stricter gun control laws would have prevented the massacre; others believe if the laws were less strict, the deaths could have been cut down.
If anything, the fact Seung-Hui Cho had mental problems, which contributed to his eventual mass murders, should make states re-evaluate the way they treat people with mental health struggles, especially ones who, like Cho, show violent tendencies and obviously need treatment.
Another important consideration is that while liberals often fervently oppose gun rights, many discourage efforts to control the amount of violence shown in movies and video games. When children grow up having no contact with guns except to watch actors pretend to shoot others down, they will not have a realistic view of weapons. The role of a gun goes from being a tool used for hunting, or more importantly, self-defense, to a way to plug your enemies.
First and most importantly, the Constitution as it stands does not allow the federal government to pass gun control laws, period. The statement in the Second Amendment that “... the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” is rather clear.
Furthermore, the Tenth Amendment declares, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
In other words, even if the Second Amendment did not exist, it would still be illegal for the government of the United States to pass gun control laws since the Constitution does not delegate it that right. That right would belong to the states. However, the Second Amendment does not differentiate between the states and the federal government in its stipulation.
Gun control advocates commonly assume the removal of guns from society will remove the desire of some people to hurt others. This is actually an assumption about human nature. Since humans are supposedly good, bad actions have to be blamed on something — society, in general. Not that society doesn’t have an effect on people, but there is a major difference between saying violent video games encourage crime and trying to pin all the blame for a crime on a certain object.
Blaming crime on guns is like blaming a hole dug by a little boy in someone’s flowers on the shovel he used. The little boy only uses the shovel because he wants to dig a hole. A criminal only uses a gun because he or she wants to hurt or kill someone. An inanimate object is not the source of evil desires.
Would restricting guns prevent criminals from being able to carry out crime? Frankly, no. What happened when strongly addictive drugs were made illegal? (Note to all Journal Junction loyalists: I am not advocating legalization.) Do we lack in illegal drugs today? As soon as a gun ban would be enacted, criminals could begin sneaking guns into the country just as drugs are trafficked in now.
Morton Grove, Ill., banned anyone other than police officers from owning guns. The result? Crime immediately increased by 15.7 percent, though the county’s crime rate rose by only 3 percent. The city’s population has shrunk slightly.
In response, the small town of Kennesaw, Ga., enacted its own regulation. The head of each household was to own and maintain a gun. Kennesaw was mocked for its decision and talk of Wild West-type shootouts as well as more realistic concerns of increased crime and gun accidents characterized nationwide reactions to the regulation.
However, Kennesaw’s crime rate, which had formerly been above the national average, went down, and 2005 statistics reported the rate to be well under the national average. Although the town has more than tripled in size, 25 years have passed since the decision and no Kennesaw residents have been involved in a fatal shooting in any way.
The decrease in violence makes sense. People who intend to hurt others don’t want to be faced with a weapon. Cho was in a gun-free zone at Virginia Tech, and he knew it. People rarely try to commit massacres where they know there will be weapons. And if they would make the attempt, it wouldn’t last very long.
While I would not personally advocate requiring families to own guns, we do need to be aware that it is every person’s duty to protect his or herself. Banning guns deprives American citizens of that ancient right.
— Community columnist Elizabeth Johnston is a native of the lower Shenandoah Valley and lives in Martinsburg. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
* The views of columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Journal.
Posted by Tim at 7:56 AM
Friday, May 4, 2007
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Feeling Safe Isn't Safe
By Michael Barone
The murders two weeks ago at Virginia Tech naturally set off a cry in the usual quarters-the New York Times, the London-based Economist-for stricter gun control laws. Democratic officeholders didn't chime in, primarily because they believe they were hurt by the issue in 2000 and 2004, but most privately agree.
What most discussions of this issue tend to ignore is that we have two tracks of political debate and two sets of laws on gun control. At the federal level there has been a push for more gun control laws since John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and some modest restrictions have been passed. At the state level something entirely different has taken place. In 1987 Florida passed a law allowing citizens who could demonstrate that they were law-abiding and had sufficient training to obtain permits on demand to own and carry concealed weapons. In the succeeding 20 years many other states have passed such laws, so that today you can, if you meet the qualifications, carry concealed weapons in 40 states with 67 percent of the nation's population (including Vermont, with no gun restrictions at all).
When Florida passed its concealed-weapons law, I thought it was a terrible idea. People would start shooting each other over traffic altercations; parking lots would turn into shooting galleries. Not so, it turned out. Only a very, very few concealed-weapons permits have been revoked. There are only rare incidents in which people with concealed-weapons permits have used them unlawfully. Ordinary law-abiding people, it turns out, are pretty trustworthy.
Unfounded fears. I'm not the only one to draw such a conclusion. When she was Michigan's attorney general, Democrat Jennifer Granholm opposed the state's concealed-weapons law, which took effect in 2001. But now, as governor, she's not seeking its repeal. She says that her fears-like those I had about Florida's law 20 years ago-proved to be unfounded. So far as I know, there are no politically serious moves to repeal any state's concealed-weapons laws. In most of the United States, as you go to work, shop at the mall, go to restaurants, and walk around your neighborhood, you do so knowing that some of the people you pass by may be carrying a gun. You may not even think about it. But that's all right. Experience has shown that these people aren't threats.
Virginia has a concealed-weapons law. But Virginia Tech was, by the decree of its administrators, a "gun-free zone." Those with concealed-weapons permits were not allowed to take their guns on campus and were disciplined when they did. A bill was introduced in the House of Delegates to allow permit holders to carry guns on campus. When it was sidetracked, a Virginia Tech administrator hailed the action and said that students, professors, and visitors would now "feel safe" on campus. Tragically, they weren't safe. Virginia Tech's "gun-free zone" was not gun free. In contrast, killers on other campuses were stopped by faculty or bystanders who had concealed-weapons permits and brandished their guns to stop the killing.
We may hear more about gun control at the national level. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that the District of Columbia's ban on handguns violates the Second Amendment's right "to keep and bear arms." Judge Laurence Silberman's strong opinion argues that this is consistent with the Supreme Court's ruling in a 1939 case upholding a federal law banning sawed-off shotguns; limited regulation is allowed, Silberman wrote, but not a total ban. Somewhere on the road between a law banning possession of nuclear weapons and banning all guns the Second Amendment stands in the way. This is the view as well of the liberal constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe. The Supreme Court may take the case, which is in conflict with other circuits' rulings.
If it upholds the D.C. decision, there is still room for reasonable gun regulation. The mental health ruling on the Virginia Tech killer surely should have been entered into the instant check database to prevent him from buying guns. The National Rifle Association is working with gun control advocate Rep. Carolyn McCarthy to improve that database. But even as we fine-tune laws to make sure guns don't get into the wrong hands, maybe the opinion elites will realize that in places where gun ownership is widespread, we're safer than in a "gun-free zone."
This story appears in the May 7, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.
Write Mr Barone and thank him for the excellent article.
Posted by Tim at 1:19 PM