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I’m willing to bet that President Obama’s Christmas address this week will shine with religious significance about as bright as his unusually short Thanksgiving Proclamation, which gave a token reference to God via a quote from George Washington.
Even in Obama’s superstar Christmas interviews with Oprah and Gloria Estefan, there were discussions about Santa, Christmas trees, ornaments, gingerbread houses and even their dog’s Christmas stocking. Obama even gave a Christmas shout-out to all Hispanics. But there was not one discussion of religion or a hint of the real reason for the season.
Gone are the days when presidents and most politicians publicly rejoice in the birth of Christ.
But things were not always this way. As with many of you, I still remember a day even in Washington when Christ was central to Christmas. It was an America that was far less politically correct – an America that wasn’t afraid to stand up for its belief in the babe who was born in Bethlehem.
Here’s a small sample of that America represented in personal and public presidential Christmas proclamations and events, as documented in presidential library archives, at WhiteHouseChristmasCards.com and by historian David Barton in his treatise “Christmas with the presidents.”
On Christmas Day, 1795, President George Washington celebrated Christmas with members of Congress at his Mount Vernon estate, complete with a fox hunt, feast including “Christmas pie,” music, dancing and visiting that at times continued for a solid week.
America’s second president, John Adams, was the first to hold a White House Christmas party.
Thomas Jefferson loved celebrating Christmas, from his youth considering the day as a time of “merriment” and “The day of greatest mirth and jollity.” He threw elaborate parties at the White House and his Monticello estate for family and friends, played his violin, sang his favorite Christmas song, “Adeste Fideles” (“Oh Come All Ye Faithful”), and even gave his slaves a few days off each year to enjoy the holiday due to his abolitionist leanings.
(And let’s not forget, when at the White House during the eight years of his presidency, Jefferson attended church where he did each week in the Capitol building – something that continued through the Civil War – in 1867 it was the largest church in Washington with 2,000 people attending weekly.)
During the 1835 Christmas season, President Andrew Jackson sent out invitations and cards (of sorts) to local children inviting them to an event in the East Room on Christmas Day, in memory of a boy who had never heard of Christmas, never knew his father and whose mother died at a young age. That boy was Jackson himself.
President John Tyler also enjoyed hosting Christmas parties for children.
After a chaotic political season in December 1848, in which intense debate ensued over issues relating to slavery and expanding U.S. territory, President James K. Polk described Christmas Day as “perhaps the most quiet day of my presidential term,” despite apparently not accompanying Mrs. Polk and the children to church on that particular day.
President James Buchanan, a devout Presbyterian, would have his southern Pennsylvania estate extravagantly decorated at Christmas for the community to enjoy (a tradition that is still done to this day).
President Abraham Lincoln read the Bible throughout his life and attended services at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church on a regular basis, including at Christmas time. During the Civil War, he and his wife would visit hospitals on Christmas to help care for the wounded. During one political campaign, he declared “I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general. … I do not think I could myself be brought to support a man for office whom I knew to be an open enemy of … religion.”
In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the bill that made Christmas Day a national holiday.
Being credited with establishing the tradition of posting a Christmas tree in the White House (the first occurrence being with President Franklin Pierce), President Benjamin Harrison was also a deeply devout Christian, who wrote to his son Russell in 1887, “I hope you will renew your Christian faith and duties. It is a great comfort to trust God – even if His providence is [at times] unfavorable. Prayer steadies one when he is walking in slippery places – even if things asked for are not given.”
In 1898, two years before his assassination, the New York Times wrote of the encouragement that President William McKinley and his ailing wife received from these words in their pastor’s Christmas Day sermon: “God’s Christmas gift of freedom has come to the suffering and wronged through the agency of a nation that was obedient to His call, and helpfulness sent forth form angelic lips – ‘Goodwill toward men.'”
Each year on Christmas Eves, President Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt traveled to Christ Church in Oyster Bay, N.Y., and, following the pastor’s sermon, gave one of his famous “sermonettes” on the meaning of Christmas. The service would end with his favorite hymn, “Christmas by the Sea.”
In 1927, in every major newspaper across the land, a Christmas admonishment from President Calvin Coolidge was published in his own hand about “the real spirit of Christmas – if we think on these things, there will be born in us a Savior and over us all will shine a star-sending its gleam of hope to the world.”
President Herbert Hoover wrote to the Nation’s Christmas Trees Association on Dec. 25, 1931: “Your annual Christmas service … is a dramatic and inspiring event of national interest. It symbolizes and vivifies our greatest Christian festival with its eternal message of unselfishness, joy, and peace.”
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared in his Christmas address to the nation on Dec. 24, 1944 (the first Christmas after D-Day), “Here, at home, we will celebrate this Christmas Day in our traditional American way – because of its deep spiritual meaning to us; because the teachings of Christ are fundamental in our lives; and because we want our youngest generation to grow up knowing the significance of this tradition and the story of the coming of the immortal Prince of Peace and Good Will. [FDR then prayed for the troops.] We pray that with victory will come a new day of peace on earth in which all the Nations of the earth will join together for all time. That is the spirit of Christmas, the holy day. May that spirit live and grow throughout the world in all the years to come.”
President Harry Truman gave these words during his Christmas Eve national broadcast on Dec. 24, 1949, “Since returning home, I have been reading again in our family Bible some of the passages which foretold this night. … We miss the spirit of Christmas if we consider the Incarnation as an indistinct and doubtful, far-off event unrelated to our present problems. We miss the purport of Christ’s birth if we do not accept it as a living link which joins us together in spirit as children of the ever-living and true God. In love alone – the love of God and the love of man – will be found the solution of all the ills which afflict the world today.”
President Dwight Eisenhower publicly proclaimed on Dec. 23, 1960, “Through the ages men have felt the uplift of the spirit of Christmas. We commemorate the birth of the Christ Child by the giving of gifts, by joining in carols of celebration, by giving expression to our gratitude for the great things that His coming has brought about in the world.”
It’s well known that President John Kennedy was a Catholic. What’s not so well known is that, in 1957, then Sen. Kennedy disclosed at the National Conference of Christians and Jews Dinner what he believed would remedy the ills in society: “Upon what can we rely? Where can we compete? In what can we find hope for the future? The answer, I believe, lies ultimately in the very principles which we honor tonight – the principles of our Judaic-Christian heritage.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson publicly declared on Dec. 22, 1963, “We were taught by Him whose birth we commemorate that after death there is life. … In these last 200 years we have guided the building of our Nation and our society by those principles and precepts brought to earth nearly 2,000 years ago on that first Christmas.”
President Richard Nixon was a Quaker and hosted church services in the East Room of White House while he was president, initiated on his first Sunday in office by none other than Rev. Billy Graham.
President Gerald Ford publicly declared on Dec. 18, 1975, “In our 200 years, we Americans have always honored the spiritual testament of 2,000 years ago. We embrace the spirit of the Prince of Peace so that we might find peace in our own hearts and in our own land, and hopefully in the world as well.”
President Jimmy Carter spoke to the nation on Dec. 15, 1977, “Christmas has a special meaning for those of us who are Christians, those of us who believe in Christ, those of us who know that almost 2,000 years ago, the Son of Peace was born to give us a vision of perfection, a vision of humility, a vision of unselfishness, a vision of compassion, a vision of love.”
President Ronald Reagan repeatedly affirmed his and the nations’ Christian faith at Christmas time, like these words on Dec. 16, 1982, “In this holiday season, we celebrate the birthday of One who, for almost 2,000 years, has been a greater influence on humankind than all the rulers, all the scholars, all the armies and all the navies that ever marched or sailed, all put together. … [I]t’s also a holy day, the birthday of the Prince of Peace, a day when ‘God so loved the world’ that He sent us His only begotten Son to assure forgiveness of our sins.”
President George H. W. Bush stated to the nation on Dec. 18, 1989, “At Christmas, we, too, rejoice in the mystery of God’s love for us – love revealed through the gift of Christ’s birth. Born into a family of a young carpenter and his wife, in a stable shared by beasts of the field, our Savior came to live among ordinary men. Yet, in time, the miraculous nature of this simple event became clear. Christ’s birth changed the course of history, bringing the light of hope to a world dwelling in the darkness of sin and death. Today, nearly 2,000 years later, the shining promise of that first Christmas continues to give our lives a sense of peace and purpose. Our words and deeds, when guided by the example of Christ’s life, can help others share in the joy of man’s Redemption.”
President Bill Clinton addressed the nation on Dec. 21, 1999, with these words, “Saint Matthew’s Gospel tells us that on the first Christmas 2,000 years ago, a bright star shone vividly in the eastern sky, heralding the birth of Jesus and the beginning of His hallowed mission as teacher, healer, servant, and savior.”
And President George W. Bush spoke in his Christmas message on Dec. 21, 2007, “During the Christmas season, our thoughts turn to the source of joy and hope born in a humble manger on a holy night more than 2,000 years ago. Each year, Christians everywhere celebrate this single life that changed the world and continues to change hearts today. … Christmas is a time to rejoice and remember the birth of Jesus Christ.”
Will President Obama’s Christmas address rival those Christian confessions of past presidents? Or will his yuletide cheer be another politically correct concoction that has already adorned the first year of his presidency?
Based upon President Obama’s first year’s utter disregard for America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and promotion of a secular-progressive agenda and pro-Islamic platforms, the only white Christmas I would count on at the White House is a continued whitewashing of religious tradition in Washington. But does America really need another version of “Away with the Manger”?
First, even during his campaign for the presidency, Obama sarcastically belittled America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and degraded its adherents with trite remarks typical of any atheistic antagonist: “Whatever we were, we are no longer a Christian nation”; “The dangers of sectarianism are greater than ever”; “Religion doesn’t allow for compromise”: “The Sermon on the Mount [is] a passage that is so radical that our own defense department wouldn’t survive its application”; and “To base our policy making upon such commitments [as moral absolutes] would be a dangerous thing.” (See the YouTube video: “Barack Obama on the importance of a secular government.”)
Second, President Obama has already denied America’s rich Judeo-Christian heritage before the eyes and ears of other countries, as he publicly declared in Turkey on April 6, 2009, for the whole world to hear: “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.” (Who are the “we” to whom he refers? Would our former presidents agree with his “we”?)
Third, quite contrary to Obama’s negative tone and sentiments about Judeo-Christian belief, in countless speeches over the past year he has sympathized and supported pro-Islamic theology and practice. Just recently, he encouraged Americans “not to jump to conclusions” about the Fort Hood shooter being a Muslim extremist. And he refused to say anything when the Muslim extremist and president of Iran publicly accused the U.S. of actively planning and plotting to stop mankind’s real savior: i.e. Mahdi, the imam that Muslims believe will be the ultimate savior of mankind.
Fourth, President Obama has enabled an anti-Christian agenda unlike any former president by revising America’s religious history, minimizing the role of religion today, passing secular-progressive legislation and turning a blind eye to issues like atheists’ lawsuit to remove the national motto (“In God We Trust”) off of the walls of the new Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, D.C., or the ACLU’s disposal of Veteran memorial crosses in the Mojave Desert and at Mount Soledad. Every time President Obama has had an opportunity to stand for Christianity in any way, he has not only denied it but disdained it.
A grave manifestation is Obamacare’s incorporation to use federal funds to pay for abortion and thereby force people of conscience who are pro-life to pay for the terminations of life in the womb across the country. (What a tragic piece of legislation to pass in the shadow of the day when we celebrate the birth of the world’s savior, Jesus Christ.)
What President Obama, like many other liberal politicians, needs is a paradigm shift – a new way of seeing America, which is really an old way. It’s the way our founders viewed America, and it incorporates a good ol’ fashioned Christmas proclamation of Christ’s birth. That America is the one I outline in my new (January 2010) paperback expansion of my New York Times best-seller, “Black Belt Patriotism,” which is ironically the same Christmas gift I’m sending to the president!
And there is one gift that I propose the president give this nation. Since Obama prides himself on being the technological president, in lieu of his Christmas proclamation this year, I suggest that he just send out across the nation the online link to a YouTube video that I had posted under the title, “Ronald Reagan Christmas Address (12/23/81).”
Dave Camp, the GOP Ranking Member on the House Ways and Means Committee, issued this devastating report on job creation attributable to the ARRA legislation. In state after state, the Obama administrations projections werent just off but off by orders of magnitude.
Heres a partial list of the worst projections:
California projected gain: 396,000, California Actual: LOST 336,400
Arizona projected gain: 70,000, Arizona Actual: LOST 77,300
Colorado projected gain: 59,000, Colorado Actual: LOST 58,900
Georgia projected gain: 106,000, Georgia Actual: LOST 131,000
Illinois projected gain: 148,000, Illinois Actual: LOST 148,000
Florida projected gain: 206,000, Florida Actual: LOST 165,100
Michigan projected gain: 109,000, Michigan Actual: LOST 137,300
Nevada projected gain: 34,000, Nevada Actual: LOST 33,800
Ohio projected gain: 133,000, Ohio Actual: LOST 97,500
Pennsylvania projected gain: 143,000, Pennsylvania Actual: LOST 103,200
These are just some of the worst miscalculations. Read the entire list but only if youve taken your blood pressure medication.
One oddity stands out in the report, namely North Dakota. They were predicted to gain 8,000 jobs. They didnt meet that mark but they gained 1,800 jobs. It couldnt have anything to do with their tax cuts, could it? Surely, thats coincidental, isnt it King?
At some point, thoughtful people will reject President Obamas wisecracks about not following the failed policies of the last eight years because theyll judge President Obama on his economic failures. Theyll notice that his economic accomplishments will consist of, in his eyes, the failed stimulus bill. Other than that, what can he point to as an accomplishment?
He certainly can’t point to his budget. Why would President Obama highlight a budget that includes trillion dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see? If President Obama were to highlight his budget, hed be handing GOP strategists a powerful campaign theme on a silver platter. (Just imagine the TV ads showing President Obama talking about the green shoots hes seeing in the economy, then showing the annual deficits in bold red letters, followed by VP Biden talking about how the stimulus is working better than he could’ve imagined with headlines of monthly unemployment figures scrolling across the screen.)
The Wikipedia page on the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition was repeatedly ripped out by an anti-gun cabal. I seems that Wikipedia has become politicized and manipulated by the Politically Correct.
Below is the content, minus all the references, about Mayor Bloomberg’s coalition. Please go to Mayors Against Illegal Guns Conservapedia page to see it all. http://www.conservapedia.com/Mayors_Against_Illegal_Guns
There are a lot of indictments and felony convictions for members of a “crime fighting” organization!
The Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition is a leftist political coalition of mayors from about 400 United States cities, with a stated agenda of “making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets.” The group was formed by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The coalition’s CEO is Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
The majority of members of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition are Democrats.
Criticism of Methods and Hypocrisy
Indicted, convicted, and scandalized members
A substantial number of member of the coalition have been indicted in recent months, on felony charges. Here in the US, conviction of felony means the immediate loss of both the right to vote and the right to own a gun for the rest of one’s life. This is an organization that espouses doing away with “illegal guns”, yet a surprising number of their members have made choices in their lives that have set themselves on the path to being disenfranchised from ever owning a gun.
Personal character and integrity are prerequisites for anyone entering public office, to serve in an elected position of “special trust and confidence”, such as a mayorship. Abuses of that trust, gross lapses of integrity, and forays into criminal conduct are not tolerated in our society. If anything, elected politicians are held to a higher standard than the general public, and their actions are closely watched. For an elected official to become a criminal, when they themselves are entrusted to protect us from criminals is nearly the most heinous and unforgivable thing imaginable in a democratically-ruled republic. For some of these same individuals to continue to be considered members in good standing of a “crime-fighting” organization–and not even censured by the organization–has been criticized as being hypocritical.
Four current and former members of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition are currently under felony indictments, five others were recently convicted of felonies, one indicted member died of a heart attack before completion of his trial, and one member was recently convicted of a violent misdemeanor. The indicted and convicted members and former members include:
- Former Mayor Gary Becker of Racine, Wisconsin is under five felony indictments for child pornography, attempted child sexual assault and child enticement. He resigned after pleading not guilty and being released on bond. His location is currently being monitored electronically, as he awaits a trial scheduled to begin in October, 2009.
- Former Mayor David Della Donna, of Guttenberg, New Jersey was indicted under a Federal extortion and mail fraud charges. He was convicted in 2008 and sentenced to four years and three months in federal prison.
- Mayor Sheila Dixon was indicted in 2009 on twelve counts, comprising four counts of perjury, two counts of misconduct, three counts of theft, and three counts of fraudulent misappropriations. The felony theft charges stem partly from incidents in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 in which she allegedly misappropriated gift cards intended for the poor and used them for personal purchases. Dixon’s trial, originally scheduled for September 8, 2009, was postponed to November 9, 2009.
- Mayor Jerramiah Healy was convicted for obstruction of justice in 2007 and more recently was implicated in the corruption sweep in New Jersey involving the sale of body parts and money laundering. In all, 44 individuals were indicted. (Healy was named as “JC Official 4” and implicated, but was not indicted, in the probe.)
- Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was indicted, arrested, and convicted. and subsequently jailed for 99 days. Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to two felony obstruction of justice charges stemming from his efforts to cover up an extramarital affair. He also pleaded no contest to charges of assaulting a police officer attempting to serve a subpoena on a Kilpatrick friend in that case. The charges and allegations (not all against Kilpatrick himself) were of marital infidelity, conspiracy, perjury, corruption and murder. Following Kilpatrick’s conviction, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms called on Kilpatrick to resign from the Coalition.
- Mayor Larry Langford was investigated in 2007 by the SEC on corruption charges. In 2008 a lawsuit was filed against him for illegally accepting $156,000 in cash and benefits. On December 1, 2008, Larry Langford was arrested by the FBI on a 101 count indictment alleging conspiracy, bribery, fraud, money laundering, and filing false tax returns in connection with a long-running bribery scheme. His trial date was postponed to October 2009, and the trial venue moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
- Deceased Mayor Frank Melton at the time of his death was under felony indictment on civil rights charges. (He died before a scheduled re-trial, following a mistrial.) In 2006, Melton pled guilty to a firearms charge, stemming from a raid (in which he was armed with a concealed pistol) on a suspected crack house. Melton conducted the extra-official Buford Pusser-style raid without a warrant to “bust up” a duplex apartment, accompanied by a group of youths that were not sworn law enforcement officers. That same event led to Melton’s civil rights indictment. In November 2006, he pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor charges: carrying a gun in a park and in a church, and carrying a concealed weapon.
- Mayor Eddie Perez was indicted on bribery, fabricating evidence, and conspiracy to fabricate evidence felony charges. Perez turned himself in to state police, stating that he had a lapse in judgment but did nothing illegal, and vowed that he would not step down as Hartford’s mayor. He was arraigned on September 8, 2009. His trial date was postponed to November 2009, and then to February, 2010. On September 2, 2009 Perez was again arrested, and additionally charged with first-degree larceny by extortion, stemming from a no-bid parking lot deal, unrelated to the other corruption charges. He again proclaimed that he would stay in office, despite these new felony charges.
- Former Mayor Samuel Rivera, of Passaic, New Jersey was convicted of corruption, influence peddling, and extortion charges. In August 2008 he pled guilty,and was sentenced to 21 months in prison.
- In 2008, former Mayor Will Wynn was convicted of Class C misdemeanor, for a choking assault on a man who had crashed a party.
Five current members of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition have been troubled by scandals that involved firearms:
- As New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg came into office, he inherited a chronic firearms permit favoritism scandal from his predecessors that still remains an unresolved issue. Writing in the New York Sun, attorney David Kopel observed: “The problem is acute in New York City. Celebrities, the ultra-wealthy, and the politically influential get carry permits. But many of the people who need them the most — such as stalking victims, or crime witnesses who have been threatened by the criminal’s friends — often do not.” There are currently only about 36,169 permits to keep firearms in private homes in New York City, with the majority issued to retired police officers. Of these permit holders, only 2,516 are more liberally licensed for concealed carry outside their homes. The issuance of permits is discretionary in New York City, per Penal Law 400. (It is considered a “may issue” locality, unlike the “shall issue” policy used for concealed carry in most other localities.) Despite “tight” restrictions on “demonstrated need or special danger”, a who’s-who list of celebrities, billionaires, entertainers, professional athletes, and politicians has somehow managed to get firearms permits. This list includes New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, publisher Michael Korda, and talk show host Howard Stern. In 2007, The New York Post reported that gun license holders include financier Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., Queens district attorney Richard A. Brown, Westchester County district attorney, Janet DiFiore, music executive Tommy Mottola, chief executive of Marvel Comics, Isaac Perlmutter, radio show host Don Imus, lawyer Barry Slotnick, lawyer Raoul Felder; publisher Robert Forbes, the cab-driving political activist Fernando Mateo, former new York Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (recently indicted for fraud), actor Robert De Niro, actor Harvey Keitel, film producer Martin Bregman, cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, and Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler. All of these individuals have retained their gun licenses under Bloomberg’s “tough on guns” administration. The New York Post noted: “Television news anchor John Roland, who let his license lapse in 2006, got his gun permit back in 2007.” A surprisingly high number of celebrities have concealed carry permits, rather than the more common “keep at home” (premise) permits. According to The New York Times, “Mr. Bloomberg asked Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly to look at the issue, and added: ‘If you want a gun permit, you should have to really show that your life is in danger, and that having a gun will protect you, will improve the chances of you surviving.'” But despite Bloomberg’s publicly-stated concern, there have been no announcements of any celebrity gun permits being rescinded, or any reforms to prevent favoritism, cronyism, bribes, or other abuse of discretion in license issuance. With a city population of 8.3 million, the 36,169 gun permit holders represent just .043% of the population and the 2,516 concealed carry permit holders represent a scant .003% of the population.
- Mayor Richard M. Daley has been criticized for the city of Chicago’s long-standing practice of providing armed bodyguards for a number of city politicians, including city clerk James “Jim” Laski. In the city clerk scandal, Daley was shamed into removing the perk of the armed bodyguards for the clerk. The Chicago Sun-Times reported: “The decision was made almost immediately after Laski became the first elected official to be caught up in the Hired Truck scandal. But Daley insisted that the bribery and extortion charges against Laski were not the trigger. It was the fact that, until this week, Laski had not been showing up for work.” Laski was later convicted of taking $48,000 in bribes and received a two year sentence. Former Mayor Eugene Sawyer, City Treasurer Judy Rice and Alderman Edward M. Burke, chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee still have armed bodyguards.
- Mayor Gerald Jennings of Albany, New York was implicated in a scandal regarding the alleged illegal purchase of 52 machine guns. It is unclear whether the weapons were purchased for departmental use or for the use of private individuals. Weapons were delivered to Police Department addresses but apparently paid for with private funds. The Department has not produced a list of weapons, their location, the names of the individuals who purchased them, or their disposition or destruction. At least one later turned up, illegally for sale to the public, in an area gun store. The police officer who sold the gun to the store has testified that he bought it from a Police Union official who was also the Department’s armorer. The current Chief of Police is the fifth appointed by Jennings. The case is still open.
- Following the illegal seizure of firearms in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Mayor Ray Nagin settled a lawsuit and had a permanent injunction issued prohibiting Nagin or any New Orleans employee from confiscating any lawfully possessed firearm and ordering the return of hundreds of illegally confiscated firearms. (They had been confiscated at Mayor Nagin’s order.). Nagin’s administration has also been troubled by reports of improprieties with the police department evidence rooms, where guns were stolen, guns were allowed to rust, and $200,000 in cash was stolen.
- Mayor Bill White‘s administration has been embarrassed by an ongoing scandal involving guns stolen from the Houston Police Department’s evidence room. In January 2009, the Houston Chronicle reported: “For months, maybe years, people with criminal backgrounds had access to secure areas of the police station, including a property room from which 30 guns disappeared within six months, according to internal police documents. The documents, obtained by the Houston Chronicle, indicated that lax security created an environment ripe for theft. No one has been charged in the gun thefts, although police suspected telephone repairmen who admitted stealing other items, and a temporary employee who had access to the property room while awaiting trial on aggravated robbery charges.”
Resignations from the coalition
Twelve mayors that had been members have withdrawn from the organization, claiming either that they were misled about the group’s anti-gun platform, or that they were enrolled in the coalition without their knowledge. They are:
- Carmel, Indiana Mayor James Brainard
In her resignation letter, Mayor Patricia Shontz of Madeira Beach, Florida wrote, “I am withdrawing because I believe the MAIG is attempting to erode all gun ownership, not just illegal guns. Additionally, I have learned that the MAIG may be working on issues which conflict with legal gun ownership.” She added, “It appears the MAIG has misrepresented itself to the Mayors of America and its citizens. This is gun control, not crime prevention.”
In his resignation letter to Bloomberg, Mayor Harry Moore stated: “It is simply unconscionable that this coalition, under your leadership, would call for a repeal of the Shelby /Tiahrt amendment that helps to safeguard criminal investigations and the lives of law enforcement officers, witnesses and others by restricting access to firearms trace data solely to law enforcement. How anyone, least of all a public official, could be willing to sacrifice such a law enforcement lifeline in order to gain an edge in suing an industry they have political differences with is repugnant to me. The fact that your campaign against this protective language consisted of overheated rhetoric, deception and falsehoods is disturbing.”
The resignations of Kevin Jackson and Jared Fuhriman left the state of Idaho completely unrepresented in the organization, and Alaska with just one representative mayor. Since Mayor Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City left office, it has also left Utah unrepresented. Mayor Kathy Taylor of Tulsa, Oklahoma has announced that she will not seek re-election, and as of September, 2009, her name has been removed from the coalition’s roster. This also leaves Oklahoma unrepresented. According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors there are 1,201 cities in the US with a population of 30,000 or more that are headed by mayors. Several of the mayors in the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition represent even smaller towns and cities–particularly in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which are disproportionately represented.
With the stated goal of reducing the number of straw purchase of guns, the coalition has favored new legislation to require mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns. As of September, 2009, seven states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island) and the District of Columbia have laws criminalizing failure to report lost and stolen guns to law enforcement. Several other states and local governments are working to pass similar laws. Critics counter that straw purchases are already illegal, and hence mandatory theft and loss reporting laws are redundant.
Former prosecuting attorney C.D. Michel analyzed mandatory reporting laws, using one in Ventura County, California as an example: “Ironically, the ordinance cannot be used against the real bad guys. No law can compel lawbreakers to report themselves. So a straw purchaser who legally buys a gun cannot be compelled to report that he resold it illegally. And since it wasn’t actually lost or stolen, he hasn’t violated the ordinance. Similarly, if a felon prohibited from possessing a gun illegally possesses one anyway, and it is lost or stolen, he can be prosecuted for having the gun in the first place, but cannot be prosecuted for failing to incriminate himself by reporting the loss. Enforcement of these ordinances places prosecutors in a precarious legal and ethical position. Say a straw-purchaser’s gun is recovered at a crime scene and traced back to him. If he lies to police claiming his gun was “stolen” when he really sold it on the black market, will we nonetheless prosecute him for something he did not do (fail to report the “stolen” gun — which wasn’t actually stolen) but to which he “confessed”? Ethics and legality aside, securing a misdemeanor conviction for failing to report a theft (that never occurred) likely prohibits prosecuting the straw purchaser for the more serious felony black market sale or for making a false statement to police. Perhaps worse, gun owners who truly are burglary victims must now hesitate to speak with police if their stolen gun is recovered at a crime scene. If the gun owner failed to report the loss at all, or on time, she faces possible criminal prosecution if she cooperates with police investigating the recovered gun. She should remain silent, get a lawyer and seek immunity first. Legal representation may also be appropriate when a gun is first discovered missing. The owner can be prosecuted if the theft is not reported within 48 hours of when the owner “should have known” the gun was missing. Proponents have made clear they believe “responsible” gun owners should know where their gun is at every single moment and “should know” a gun is gone immediately. And the fear of prosecution will encourage those who miss the 48-hour window not to report the loss at all. Effectively, these ordinances place the legitimate gun owner in jeopardy of prosecution for becoming a victim of a crime. In light of these liabilities, gun-rights groups and the criminal-defense bar have begun advising gun owners — who would ordinarily be happy to assist police with their investigation — that they need a lawyer if they are contacted by police.”
On September 8, 2009, United States District Judge Bruce D. Black of the United States District Court for New Mexico entered summary judgment in a civil case for damages against Alamogordo, NM police officers. The Judge’s straight shootin’ message to police: Leave open carriers alone unless you have “reason to believe that a crime [is] afoot.”
The facts of the case are pretty simple. Matthew St. John entered an Alamogordo movie theater as a paying customer and sat down to enjoy the movie. He was openly carrying a holstered handgun, conduct which is legal in 42 states, and requires no license in New Mexico and twenty-five other states. Learn more here.
In response to a call from theater manager Robert Zigmond, the police entered the movie theater, physically seized Mr. St. John from his seat, took him outside, disarmed him, searched him, obtained personally identifiable information from his wallet, and only allowed him to re-enter the theater after St. John agreed to secure his gun in his vehicle. Mr. St. John was never suspected of any crime nor issued a summons for violating any law.
Importantly, no theater employee ever ordered Mr. St. John to leave. The police apparently simply decided to act as agents of the movie theater to enforce a private rule of conduct and not to enforce any rule of law.
On these facts, Judge Black concluded as a matter of law that the police violated Matthew St. John’s constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment because they seized and disarmed him even though there was not “any reason to believe that a crime was afoot.” Judge Black’s opinion is consistent with numerous high state and federal appellate courts, e.g., the United States Supreme Court in Florida v. J.L. (2000) (detaining man on mere report that he has a gun violates the Fourth Amendment) and the Washington Appeals Court in State v. Casad (2004) (detaining man observed by police as openly carrying rifles on a public street violates the Fourth Amendment).
Mr. St. John’s attorney, Miguel Garcia, of Alamogordo, NM was pleased with the ruling and look forward to the next phase of the litigation which is a jury trial to establish the amount of damages, and possibly punitive damages. Garcia said that
“[i]t was great to see the Court carefully consider the issues presented by both sides and conclude that the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from detaining and searching individuals solely for exercising their rights to possess a firearm as guaranteed by our state and federal constitutions.”
Notably, Judge Black denied the police officers’ requested “qualified immunity,” a judicially created doctrine allowing government officials acting in good faith to avoid liability for violating the law where the law was not “clearly established.” In this case, Judge Black concluded that
“[r]elying on well-defined Supreme Court precedent, the Tenth Circuit and its sister courts have consistently held that officers may not seize or search an individual without a specific, legitimate reason. . . . The applicable law was equally clear in this case. Nothing in New Mexico law prohibited Mr. St. John from openly carrying a firearm in the Theater. Accordingly, Mr. St. John’s motion for summary judgment is granted with regard to his Fourth Amendment and New Mexico constitutional claims. Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is denied with regard to the same and with regard to qualified immunity.”
Judge Black’s opinion and order is welcome news for the growing number of open carriers across the United States. Though police harassment of open carriers is rare, it’s not yet as rare as it should be – over the last several years open carriers detained without cause by police have sued and obtained cash settlements in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Virginia (see additional settlement here), and Georgia. More cases are still pending in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
Judge Black’s opinion and order can be read here.