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Published: Sunday, 7/31/2005

Gunning down local control

Say what you will about the National Rifle Association, it's one organization that knows how to milk almost any situation for publicity in promoting its cause of unfettered firearms.

The NRA further solidified its reputation for multi-tasking in politics when it made a big show of announcing that Columbus would not be the site of its 2007 convention.

The ostensible reason: Enactment by Columbus City Council of a tough new ban against assault weapons, effective later this year.

Never mind that the NRA had never signed a contract for the convention, which was supposed to draw 60,000 visitors and spending of $15 million to $20 million to Ohio's capital city in two years.

That salient fact didn't keep Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's top gun, from jetting in to condemn the weapons ban and proclaim the whole affair as "an unnecessary loss and an embarrassment to the city of Columbus" and its "radical city council."

The real purpose of the carefully timed fusillade, though, was two-fold: First, to deliver a warning to Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, who strongly backed the weapons ban and plans to run for governor in 2006 and, second, to signal an assault by the NRA on the concept of local control in Ohio.

Mr. LaPierre said his group will support legislation that would prohibit Ohio cities from enacting assault weapons bans like Columbus'. That would mean outlawing similar ordinances already in force in Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Dayton.

Such a lobbying effort shouldn't be too difficult for the NRA, which virtually wrote Ohio's concealed-carry law and already owns large segments of the General Assembly. But it's an affront to residents of home-rule cities who seem to be perfectly content with banning assault weapons.

Mr. LaPierre claims that a single standard is necessary "to eliminate the crazy patchwork quilt of gun laws," but what he's really doing is disregarding the millions of Ohio citizens who favor restrictive gun laws.

An ordinance that works in Toledo may not be suitable in Cincinnati, or elsewhere. Why should all cities that fall into the home-rule category have one-size-fits-all firearms ordinances?

It's ironic that the anti-gun control zealots in the General Assembly who slavishly do the NRA's bidding are among so-called conservative lawmakers who are always complaining about loss of local control.

In sum, Mayor Michael Coleman said, the NRA's cancellation of a convention that never was amounted to "a heavy-handed attempt to influence our policies," a tactic which may work in Washington but won't in Columbus.

It's a message the NRA should ponder carefully before it sets out to kill Ohio's cherished principle of local control.



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