The following article is republished here with permission of The Daily Courier in Grants Pass, Oregon. Report Patricia Snyder covered the Gun Owners Caucus shooting event which was graciously hosted by the Josephine County Sportsman Association, which runs an outstanding facility I recommend to everyone. Enjoy!
Liberals take up arms
By Patricia Snyder of The Daily Courier
Democrats gathered at the Josephine County Sportsman Park to squeeze off a few rounds Saturday morning and take aim at the perception that liberals oppose Second Amendment gun rights.
The Blue Steel Democrats gathering coincided with a quarterly meeting of the Democratic Party of Oregon, held in Grants Pass for the first time in at least seven years. About 70 Democrats met at the Performing Arts Center at Grants Pass High School to discuss party business, training and strategy for the 2008 campaign.
In 2005, the party officially expressed support for the Second Amendment right of individuals to keep and bear arms.
The Gun Owners Caucus began last fall to promote gun rights and safety, and members want to challenge the perception that Democrats are opposed to rights for gun owners, said Zak Johnson, caucus chairman and a Portland resident. So far, the majority of the 50 members who have joined the caucus are from the Portland area.
The Josephine County Sportsman's Association, which operates the park, is not politically oriented, said Steve Ware, organization spokesman.
"The whole idea is that things shouldn't be political," he said as the soon-to-be shooters listened to a safety lesson from Baker resident Chuck Butcher, a former congressional candidate. "The Second Amendment goes across political parties."
Gun issues have been used to divide Americans, Johnson said. "We should be united in support of the Constitution," he said. He blamed some of the perception of Democrats as anti-gun on the historical rise of figures who come from regions where gun ownership is controversial. It's more of a regional conflict, he said. Voters need to look an individual's stance, he added, as some members of both the Democrat and Republican parties have stronger stances on gun restrictions.
One recently passed state law the party is celebrating is House Bill 2370, which passed unanimously except for opposition from Wilsonville Republican Jerry Krummel.
It includes the statement that, during an emergency, "a unit of government may not seize a firearm from an individual who lawfully possesses the firearm," notwithstanding laws related to emergencies such as rationing and seizure of property with compensation. It provides some protection in light of what happened after Hurricane Katrina, Johnson said.
Saturday's gathering marked the first shooting experience for a few of the 10 Blue Steel Democrats who participated. "Just making people familiar, I think, takes away the fear of the firearm," Johnson said.
First-time shooter Tracee Larson's hands shook a bit as she gripped a loaded Lady Smith revolver that Johnson inherited from his mother.
"There's something kind of exhilarating about it," she said after she finished her round of shooting, giggling with excitement. The self-described Portland liberal grew up in the city, exposed only to her grandfather's shooting rifle that was left on the wall with the mandate to stay away from it. Before buying a gun, she would want to know how to operate it safely, she said, and she doesn't have much opportunity to learn from someone experienced.
She lives alone, but she's in a secure apartment building and doesn't worry about a home invasion, she said. However, she added, she believes in Second Amendment rights. If existing laws were better enforced, she thinks that gun control wouldn't be an issue.
Trent Lutz, executive director of the Democratic Party of Oregon, was among those who took pistol in hand Saturday morning. The Portland resident doesn't own a gun, but he grew up in a family that owned guns, he said. So far, reception to the party's gun stance has been positive, he said.
Josephine County has historically been heavily Republican, but holding a quarterly meeting in Grants Pass sends the message that every vote counts and the party wants every voice to be heard, Lutz said.
Reach reporter Patricia Snyder at 474-3817 or firstname.lastname@example.org