Sunday, February 21, 2010

Star's Matthew Tully Praises Mayor Ballard for Threatening Veto of "Goofball" Guns in Parks Proposal, Gets Both the Politics and Policy Wrong

This morning, Indianapolis Star columnist pens a column which he uses in part to praise Mayor Ballard's threatened veto of Libertarian Ed Coleman's proposal to allow those with gun permits to carry them into city parks:

"It started a few weeks ago when a goofball proposal to allow guns in Indianapolis parks found its way onto the City-County Council's agenda. Yes, that's what our parks are missing: firearms. I have that thought every time I go or a stroll or bike ride on the Monon Trail.

Ed Coleman, a former Republican councilman who switched parties and is now a Libertarian, apparently thinks the people of Marion County are clamoring for guns in parks. Initially, it appeared at least a few council Republicans would support the idea.

That was until Mayor Greg Ballard stepped in and made clear he would veto such an ordinance. Since then, he has taken heat from gun advocates. But support for the idea has diminished because Ballard made a smart, quick decision."

A "smart, quick decision?" It was far and away the dumbest political decision Mayor Ballard has made in office and that it saying something as there are so many bad political decisions to choose from. In one rash move, the Mayor forever alienated gun rights supporters. Those of us who have dealt with the Ballard administration know the Mayor has a substantial track record of opposing gun rights and has even taken the position in court that the City doesn't have to follow the Second Amendment, a position directly opposite that of Attorney General Greg Zoeller. But, until the Mayor's flippant and poorly thought-out response to the Coleman proposal, he could have at least continued the pretense of supporting gun rights into the next election. That now is forever over.
I'm not sure if Tully was merely judging the Ballard veto threat by what he thinks is good policy or good politics, which are not always the same thing. I'll address the former in a second. If it is the latter, Tully grossly misunderstands the politics of the Ballard gun veto threat. It doesn't matter if 80% of the electorate is for a ban on guns in city parks. The fact is that 80% won't vote for Ballard on that issue. The 20% on the other side though will. To them it is a "voting issue."
What is even worse for Ballard is that 20% comes from the heart of the Republican base, people who almost certainly would have otherwise voted for him. Ballard has already alienated Republicans through his continued support of corporate welfare measures, insider deals, and limitless tax/fee increases. He cannot afford to lose a single Republican voter come November 2011. Right now though, just a name on the ballot against Ballard in the Republican Primary, without that person spending a dime, would garner 30% of the vote just because of the anger and betrayal Republicans feel toward the Mayor. Mayor Ballard has zero chance to win re-election having alienated so many Republicans. What Republican-leaning group is the poorly-advised Mayor going to target next?
As far as Tully's claim that that it is a "goofball proposal" to allow guns in parks, he fails to explain why we should have a different law with respect to guns in city parks than we do in national and state parks. Parks are not closed environments like the City-County Building or an airport where everyone is searched for guns and other weapons. The only thing enforcing the current gun ban in city parks is the honor system. Why does Tully believe that someone who is already inclined to break the law and commit a crime, will follow the honor system and be deterred by a sign saying it is against the law to have a gun in a city park? All the current law does now is strip law-abiding individuals of their guns when going into city parks.
During the warmer months, I ride my bike to work utilizing about 4 1/2 miles of the White River Trail. The trail can be accessed anywhere by anyone without limit and you can ride for miles without seeing anyone. There is nothing to stop someone from jumping out from behind a bush and robbing me from virtually anywhere on that 4 1/2 miles. Would I carry a gun on my bike to defend myself? Probably not. But the last thing I want to do is publicize the fact that I will be unarmed if I am accosted. That is exactly what the current law does.
I enjoy reading Tully's column as he brings an interesting perspective to the newspaper. That is not to say he isn't often wrong. On this issue though he is dead wrong on both the politics and policy.


Gary R. Welsh said...

Tully doesn't get the fact that people licensed to conceal and carry can enter one of the City's busiest parks, White River State Park, with their concealed guns. If they head down to Garfield Park or any other city park, their permit to carry a concealed gun is inoperable. How many people have been killed in White River Park by someone carrying a concealed gun with a permit? Zero

Marycatherine Barton said...

I have found Tully to be a bully, who, in my case, has refused to correct accusations against me, my office, and staff, but instead, when I pointed out his mistakes to him, scolded and threatened me on the phone, indicating that he was capable of using his 'pen' to libel us even more viciously. Maybe he is projecting, thinking that those he encounters in a park who are carrying a gun, may lose their temper. Anyway, I have known him to not much care about those facts that are inconvenient to the conclusions he draws.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Let me wade in here against the tide. Tully has an political opinion column in the Star. Its getting to be that the blogs and the opinion columns are quite similar except for the pay scale.

If Tully thinks its a 'goofball' idea - then it his right to express that opinion. And, of course, your right to disagree. You did a nice job of laying out the opposing view. Thankfully there is a forum outside of the Star's website for the exchange of ideas.

As for Mayor Ballard, even if he is eroding more votes from his base, he should be getting out in front of issues as a routine, standard operating procedure. I think that with his lack of leadership on issues, one has to wonder why this issue, why now? But, I want to encourage him taking a stand on anything. Then the voters will know what he brought to the table since his election.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I don't think anyone challenges the right of Tully to express his opinion.

I don't agree though that a flip comment by the Mayor about his opinion on the proposal, without even looking at it, is "leadership." Nor do I think it is "leadership" for the executive to express an opinion on every measure that's introduced in the legislative body. You don't see Governor Daniels running around stikcking his head in the General Assembly voicing his opinion on issues.

Cato said...

Tully is an operative for the establishment. He's not an editorial writer, and he's not a reporter, yet his unsolicited comments receive regular ink. On issues in which the establishment needs cover, Tully is used to consolidate opinion and to create a favorable record in the press.

He's told what to write. It wouldn't surprise me if he was provided outlines or bullet points. He's Soviet journalism, and Hoosiers are very comfortable with the marriage of state, corporation and press.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Thanks for the lesson from Cato. If I was ever to get into politics again, it would not be in Indiana, but with the state of Vermont's independence movement. Check out the second Vermont republic, at