Damning With Faint Praise

By now, virtually everyone in the gun community knows that Paul Helmke is leaving as President of the Brady Campaign. While there is some discussion on whether he walked away on his own accord or was pushed out, the bottom line is that he will be gone effective July.

I found the release from the Brady Campaign announcing his departure and his accomplishments somewhat lacking in substance. Some of these “accomplishments” remind me of Good Penmanship Awards from grammar school. They are nice but not indicative of any substantial accomplishment unlike making the Honor Roll in the pre-grade inflation days.

Take, for example, the accomplishment listed as “leading the Starbuck ‘open carry’ campaign.” I’m sorry but Starbucks still allows open carry and told the Brady Campaign to pound sand over the issue. If that is an accomplishment, then what do they consider a failure?

Paul Helmke Departs Brady After Busy, Fruitful, Five-year Term As Brady President
Long-Time Public Servant Blazed Trails, Strengthened Movement

Jun 24, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With a great deal of sadness and overwhelming gratitude, the Brady Campaign and Brady Center today announced that Paul Helmke will end his five-year-tenure as Brady president on July 10 and begin the next chapter in his life and his long career of public service.

“When the Brady Boards hired me as President in 2006, I committed to remain in the job for at least five years. July 10 will mark the end of five busy, active, challenging, exciting, and fruitful years – and will be my last day as President,” said Helmke in a memo to the organization’s staff.

Jim and Sarah Brady expressed deep gratitude to Helmke for his outstanding commitment to the organization and the movement.

“Jim and I thank Paul for his wonderful work over the past five years. He has poured his life and soul into both the Brady Campaign and Brady Center,” said Sarah Brady, Chair of the Brady organizations. “He is a man of the highest integrity who has worked tirelessly to keep Americans safer for so many years, long before his tenure with us. His accomplishments are too numerous to mention, but we are delighted that he has made our voice louder and our movement stronger. We both will miss him as a friend and a leader.”

“The Board is grateful to Paul for his many accomplishments over the last five years, and his dedicated and tireless service to Brady and the gun violence prevention movement,” said Board Chair William Harwood. “Paul helped blaze new trails for Brady and the movement. He helped us focus extraordinary national attention on the tragedy of American gun violence, and along the way laid a strong foundation from which we will excitedly continue to strengthen this organization and our movement.”

Helmke also announced that although he will leave as CEO on July 10, he will remain through the end of July to help with the transition to new leadership.

Among the well-liked and highly-respected former mayor’s many accomplishments with the Brady organizations are these:

  • responding to the decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court in Heller and McDonald in a way that makes legislation implementing common sense restrictions on guns more likely in the future;
  • helping pass the NICS Improvement Act in 2007, which law has already helped spur the addition of another million records to the Brady background check system;
  • engaging a new generation of victim advocates, such as Virginia Tech survivor Colin Goddard, in the fight for sensible gun laws;
  • supporting the filming, release and distribution of two new documentaries on the gun issue — Living for 32 and Gunfight;
  • pursuing an aggressive media strategy, including national television and radio, as well as local, newspapers, magazines, and web outlets;
  • the Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence initiative;
  • beginning relationships with professional athletes such as Plaxico Burress;
  • advancing Brady’s “assault clips” campaign and targeted district strategy;
  • enlisting 100+ sponsors for bills to close the gun show loophole and ban assault clips;
  • implementing successful defensive efforts in the states to stop “guns on campus” as well as helping pass strong pro-active legislation in places like California;
  • leading the Starbucks “open carry” campaign;
  • steering the organization through the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression;
  • supporting the writing and promotion of a new book on the gun issue, Lethal Logic by Dennis Henigan;
  • getting more attention from the White House, Administration, as well as many leaders on the Hill than in the past decade;
  • budgeting for new investment in donors that resulted in thousands of new donors and supporters.

“Special Projects”

Mike Vanderboegh pointed out an article in Government Executive that seems to indicate that Ken Melson, Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is digging in his heels about being pushed out of the agency. It surprises me a bit but I assume that his conditions on leaving are not being met by the political appointees in DOJ.

However, what really caught my eye in that article was a statement by Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign, who was opining that ATF’s problems were because they only had an Acting Director.

The fact that no one has been confirmed as ATF director is worrisome to Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “You can’t run an important agency or any agency with just an acting head,” he said. “It makes it hard to launch special projects and crime-fighting initiatives and get support from agents to carry them out. I’m a former mayor, and if we’d had an acting police chief, things would have spiraled out of control.”

Helmke “points the finger at Congress, because they made it a confirmable position, so either confirm someone or restructure the agency,” he said. “The issues in Fast and Furious need to be addressed to find out who’s responsible, but with an acting head, no one’s responsible.”

Ken Melson came on board to head ATF in April 2009. Project Gunrunner did not morph into Operation Fast and Furious until after that. If Operation Fast and Furious was not a special project, then what was it? Or does Mr. Helmke have other special projects in mind such as the Shotgun Importability Study or the Multi-Rifle Sale Reporting Requirement? Perhaps the special project he had in mind was for ATF to find a way to completely abrogate our Second Amendment rights.

As to his specious argument that “no one’s responsible”, tell that to Rep. Darrell Issa and Senator Chuck Grassley who are looking long and hard at the higher-ups in the Department of Justice. Even if Andrew Traver had been confirmed as Director of ATF, I sincerely doubt he would have had the authority to start a project like Operation Fast and Furious on his own without clearance from his DOJ superiors. It involves wiretaps, international borders, and the drug cartels.

Helmke’s comments show just how desperate the Brady Campaign has become if this is the best they can do.

Helmke On ABC’s Topline

Paul Helmke was a guest on ABC New’s Topline webcast on Friday. The interview with Helmke starts at about the 4:22 mark.

The best part of the interview was when Jonathan Karl asks Helmke, “Why have you guys been losing this debate for so long?” Helmke never answered the question and admitted their high watermark for gun control was in the first two years of the Clinton Administration.

Unlike most media interviews, Helmke is not let off easily. Karl notes that the 111th Congress seemed the most pro-NRA in his memory even though it was so Democratic. He later questions Helmke on his insistence that the public want more gun control saying “47% (of a poll) is a mandate for more gun control?”

When Helmke says that the Democratic Caucus is more favorable now towards gun control because those Democrats “who played footsy with the NRA lost”, Karl responds that while they may be more pro-gun control there are a lot less Democrats than before.

Fisking Helmke

The Brady Campaign released another missive from Paul Helmke yesterday reacting to the shootings in Tucson:

Enough is Enough! Tucson Shooter, Arizona New Faces of Weak Gun Laws

Jan 9, 2011

Statement from Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

“The 22 year-old shooter in Tucson was not allowed to enlist in the military, was asked to leave school, and was considered “very disturbed” (according to former classmates), but that’s not enough to keep someone from legally buying as many guns as they want in America.

Jared Lee Loughner passed the NICS check conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System was mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and launched by the FBI on November 30, 1998.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a Democrat, has blamed inflammatory rhetoric on the part of Tea Parties and conservative politicians for the tragedy. However, according to sources within his own Sheriff’s Department, they knew of Loughner and his threats as well as his mental illness. One of the reasons they were reluctant to do anything was because his mother was a Pima County employee.

Many people seem to find this surprising, but it’s true, and we ought to be angry about it.

The troubles of the Tucson shooter are more proof that we make it too easy for dangerous and irresponsible people to get guns in this country. We have too few laws to protect our families and communities from this kind of bloodshed, and the laws we do have are riddled with too many loopholes.

Arizona, as it turns out, has almost no gun laws, and scored just two points out of 100 last year on the Brady State Scorecard.

Since then, things have gotten worse. Arizona is one of only three states that allow residents to carry loaded, hidden guns without background checks. Arizona recently weakened its laws to allow guns in bars.

The State of Arizona believes in individual responsibility as well as constitutional rights. If the Loughner family had sought mental health care for their son, he might have shown up in mental health records and been denied under NICS. Mr. Helmke wants to blame everyone but the criminal’s family for not doing something to prevent this tragedy.

Joseph Zamudio, one of the bystanders that detained Loughner and who has been hailed a hero, was carrying concealed and went to provide help when he heard the shots because he was armed.

In addition, if Congress had not allowed the “Assault Weapons Ban” to expire in 2004, the shooter would only have been able to get off 10 rounds without reloading. Instead, he was able to fire at least 20 rounds from his 30-round clip.

Standard and large capacity magazines were available during the ten years the “Assault Weapons Ban” (sic) was the law. While no new magazines could be produced except for law enforcement or military uses, existing magazines were grandfathered and readily available. This would include 30-round knock-offs of the Glock 18 magazine. Even without a 30-round magazine, reloads can be done quickly and efficiently if practiced.

Sensible gun laws can save lives. Congress should move now to enact tougher restrictions on guns, ammunition, and who can legally possess them, and President Obama should help lead the way.”

Why does anyone still believe a “new” law would have prevented this tragedy? Madmen will do as madmen do and people are still going to get killed.

A Cruel Game

The Brady Center is engaged in a cruel game with Texas Tech freshman James D’Cruz. As the lead plaintiff in two lawsuits sponsored by the NRA, he has become the prime target of the Brady Center. The lawsuits challenge respectively the Federal prohibition on sales by FFL’s of handguns to 18-20 years olds and the denial by the State of Texas of Concealed Handgun Licenses to non-veteran, non-military 18-20 year olds.

As Sebastian at SnowFlakesInHell has noted, they have mischaracterized his Facebook page as filled with “angry, violent Facebook postings”. They are now using pictures from his Facebook page in a fundraising campaign.

It is as I say above a cruel game that the Brady Center is playing with D’Cruz. If he complains about it, he will be portrayed as a whining teenager not ready to handle adult responsibilities like being a Concealed Handgun Licensee. If he does not respond to the mischaracterization, they will feel free to continue to vilify him as violent and angry. He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Still, given they are going to savage him one way or another, the best thing he probably can do is to do nothing and keep leading the exemplary life that he has led in the past.

I wonder how Paul Helmke would have reacted if his daughters Laura and Kathryn had been attacked when they were 18 like he and the organization he heads are doing to James D’Cruz. I am sure that like any good father he would have been rather angry about it – as well he should.

So then why is it OK to demonize and vilify a young Hispanic male who has led what seems to be an exemplary life and is now a freshman in college?

Brady Campaign Racist?

From the Austin American-Statesman on the D’Cruz cases:

“This is an unprecedented attempt to arm teenagers … even though most states currently restrict them from carrying a concealed weapon,” said Daniel Vice , senior attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence . “Teen gang members could buy guns if this law is changed.”

James D’Cruz is Latino.

James D’Cruz is 18 years old.

By the logic of the Brady Center, the combination of the two makes James D’Cruz a potential “teen gang member”. Nice racial stereotype, isn’t it.

I guess this is no surprise given their recent attack on Mr. D’Cruz where they took Facebook postings out of context to conclude he is fascinated with “with gangsters and outlaws, often quoting them, and include violent, threatening messages.”

By this logic, one would say the Yale Law Class of 1973 was filled with a bunch of hack politicians that slept with staff, attacks 18 year olds, and only got a job due to family connections. It makes as much sense.