Friday, January 08, 2016

Obama executive order a sensible first step

Earlier this week, when President Barack Obama announced his executive order requiring more background checks on gun purchases, the responses were pretty typical. Democrats loved it. Republicans hated it.

We ran a pair of stories here on ENP stating just that. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Gov. Andrew Cuomo came out in support of the initiative. Congressman Chris Collins and Sen. Rob Ortt released statements of their own opposing the plan.

Interestingly, most of the Facebook comments on the Gillibrand/Cuomo story came from people who disagreed with the Democrats' take, calling them "idiots." One person added, "Common sense tells us that the underlying cause of these mass shootings is 'gun free zones.'" Likewise, most of the comments on the story about Collins and Ortt, disagreed with them, calling them "out of touch." Maybe it's easier to be contrarian. I'm not sure.

Away from ENP, but still on Facebook, the topic is a hot-button issue, no doubt. I don't usually engage in political debate on Facebook but did so twice in the past few days on this very issue. Because, frankly, it's one I feel strongly about.

Thursday night, the president had a televised town hall on the topic, explaining his point of view and taking questions from the audience. The National Rifle Association was invited to discuss the topic at the event, but turned it down, instead choosing to tweet rebuttals to the president's statements with no fear of being asked difficult questions from President Obama or CNN moderator Anderson Cooper.

If you've read my column before or heard me in my radio days, you'll know I'm a huge proponent of the Second Amendment. In fact, I'm a "gun nut," according to most. Or rather, a "firearms nut," as I don't believe that the Second Amendment has anything to do with guns, really. It has to do with weapons in general. I believe that the intent of the founders was to allow the American people access to the same level of weaponry that the government has -- to keep that government in check. This includes bazookas, flamethrowers, tanks and atom bombs. The very same argument for the U.S. having atom bombs is the argument one could use for John Q. Public having one. "It's a deterrent." If our atomic bombs deter Russia from being stupid, "the people's" atomic bombs would deter Washington from the same.

But back to guns specifically. One of the things that the NRA tweeted during the townhall Thursday night was that "none of the president's orders would have stopped any of the recent mass shootings." That may or may not be true. But it's also true that none of the president's orders would have stopped a "law-abiding citizen" from buying a gun, which seems to be the NRA's whole point -- that Obama's executive order is an affront on the Second Amendment in that it would prevent "law-abiding citizens" from buying guns.

In fact, the main crux of the executive order is that felons are capable of buying guns, taking advantage of a loophole which allows basically anyone to buy a gun online or at gun shows. The majority of U.S. states do not require sellers at gun shows or online to be licensed. Since only licensed dealers must perform background checks, people who buy at gun shows and online can get one without a background check.

While it may be true that none of the mass shootings of the past seven years would have been prevented with this executive order in place, I don't know that as fact. I only know that the NRA says so. And then everyone who blindly follows the NRA parrots that statement.

The NRA said it turned down the town hall invitation because ".@POTUS doesn’t want an intellectually honest policy discussion. He wanted #NRA to be an audience member at his PR stunt. No thanks."

What a crock.

As I pointed out in a previous column, it's the NRA who doesn't want an honest policy discussion on the matter. And their adherents in the Republican Party make sure there isn't one. Rather than agreeing to even try to solve the issue of mass murder, they offer "thoughts and prayers" and move on.

Keep in mind, the executive order doesn't ban a single weapon. It doesn't take away anyone's guns. All it does is help to ensure that people who shouldn't have access to them, don't.

If the NRA, Chris Collins, Rob Ortt or anyone else can explain to me why felons, murders, rapists and domestic abusers "right to bear arms" trumps the safety of their past -- and future -- victims, I'll offer my apology. Otherwise, they should stand up and announce that they have no clue what they're talking about and have more respect for guns than for human life.

+Scott Leffler is pretty annoyed at the disingenuousness of the NRA and their cohorts. Feel free to disagree with him on Twitter @scottleffler or by email at scott.leffler@gmail.com.


This column was originally published on East Niagara Post.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Happy New Year -- good things to come

Another calendar year has come and gone and we begin anew, filled with the promise of change and the hope of perfection.

My hope for perfection lasted just a few short hours, as the second story I penned in 2016 had a glaring error -- in the headline, no less: "Today's foreacast: Mostly cloudy with a high near 31." You see that, right? In Friday's weather story? "Foreacast." Not a word. So with my first mistake out of the way quickly, I can throw aside the unattainable goal of perfection and work towards "pretty darn good," which isn't a bad goal, either.

Friday morning when I awoke from my slumber, I glanced at the daily email update and noticed the glaring error, fixed it, dusted off my shattered ego, and got right back to work, attending the inauguration ceremony for Lockport elected officials at the Historic Palace Theatre.

It was a nice ceremony, about the right length with a decent -- but not overwhelming -- amount of pomp and circumstance. Mayor Anne McCaffrey gave a speech. Other elected officials said a few words. Mike Niethe was sworn in as police chief and Pat Brady was officially sworn in as fire chief. The city attorneys were also sworn in. There was the pledge to the flag and the national anthem, sung -- as always -- by Pete Robinson. Afterwards there was punch and snacks. And later still, there was a fancy shindig held by city Democrats at the Kenan Center complete with tasty sandwiches, cake and Bloody Marys.

All-in-all, 2016 got off to a decent start. Now for the rest of it.

This is not going to be a column filled with resolutions; but plans, rather. Or plots, even. As I've been told, "It's better to plot than to plan. Plans fall through." I know this all too well.

East Niagara Post, which quietly celebrated its two-year-anniversary in November, plans plots to continue to grow, adding more contributors, more content, and more news.

We're starting right away with a brand new bi-weekly column (first and third Saturday of each month) penned by Dr. Scott Geise beginning today. Geise's column, a "series of historically relevant articles," will highlight local history, focusing largely on the Historic Lockport Mill Race. Geise previously published a column with the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal but came to us for this new series. We're glad to have him. He hopes (as do we at ENP) that the series of articles will promote the area and bring in some tourism dollars.

For those of you who prefer to stay indoors, we're also adding a cooking column. Also running every other week, the new column will be penned by my sister, Natilie Cavnar, an award-winning chef who graduated "most likely to succeed" from the Culinary Institute of America, Her column will run the second and fourth Saturday of each month beginning Jan. 9, and will feature recipes, "plus talk about culinary information, whether it be about seasonal food, GMO food, food allergies, and also offer a question-and-answer section as well."

The food allergy thing will be a particularly nice addition here for the staff at ENP as my partner, Heather Grimmer, is pretty much allergic to everything edible. No, really. At the Democatic celebration Friday, a couple people suggested I bring her back some food. But it all had wheat in it. Every. Single. Thing.

Heather was unable to attend due largely to her ongoing "allergy" of being the victim of a hit-and-run accident back in April. She continues -- eight months later -- to recover from her concussion, while being (at times quite visibly) irritated by the fact that it happened.

So after months of not being allowed to work -- doctor's orders -- Heather was given permission to return to light-duty ... just in time to put on her latest hat, that of owner of ART247, formerly Market Street Art Studios. In other words, the little amount of time she has to do work right now is being spent on that awesome endeavor.

If you missed the story about her taking over the immense former Western Block building, catch up here (link). And while the history is impressive, it's not nearly as cool as the future. Check out a rendering of Heather's plans for 247 Market St. here (link).

I'm proud of you, Hx.

East Niagara Post has called 247 Market St. home for a while now, sharing an office with Heather's other business, HG Design Studios. We'll continue to operate out of the building but are moving down the hall to our very own office.

Our new office, located in suite 205, will allow me more space, which will be very beneficial for our radio endeavors. We'll be adding a few new programs to East Niagara Radio to complement our current live broadcasts of Lockport Express hockey games and other live events. We're still hashing out details on those but keep your eyes here (and your ears on ENR) for announcements soon.

Okay -- so everything above is through the planning and development stage and simply awaiting implementation. The things below are more ideas that I'm working towards with no real date in mind -- other than "this year."

I'm hoping we can bring in another staff writer who will be able to take some of the day-to-day stuff off of my plate. Someone who can turn press releases into stories, who can write small features on upcoming events, and maybe write up police reports. This, in turn, will allow me more time to focus on my true love: politics.

In fact, I'm going to make a greater effort to attend local Common Council and County Legislature meetings. As much as I abhor meetings, I also abhor reading things I didn't already know about in the US&J and/or Buffalo News. Like it or not, sometimes those stupid meetings have real news in them.

In addition to the staff news writer, I'm hoping we'll be able to bring in beat writers to report news out of the four school districts we cover: Lockport, Newfane, Roy-Hart and Barker. Having one person dedicated to each school district will ensure that we stay ahead of the competition and help make ENP the only news source you need.

One other major addition I'm hoping for in 2016 is the addition of a sports writer to cover local sports. While I feel we do a bang-up job of covering the Lockport Express, the rest of our sports coverage is, admittedly pretty non-existent. In truth, though, that's kind of by design. Local sports is huge. And without a person dedicated to covering it, we couldn't do so adequately. Our philosophy before now has been that if we couldn't do something adequately, we didn't want to do it at all. My philosophy now is "let's get a person in here and get it done." Stay tuned.

Aside from everything above, we are constantly approached by people who want to contribute to ENP in some way or another. To them, I say, get ahold of us. Our new columns by Geise and Cavnar are coming in to reality because they both approached me and asked to contribute. They wanted to share their passion and realized that the Post was the best method of delivery. For others with a passion and no outlet, consider us. I'm always hoping to grow the family.

All these new plans plots require funding. Which is why we're happy to announce the return of Damien Brady as a sales consultant. He joins Simon Chavers, who was added to our sales team in mid-2015. If you own a local business, don't be surprised to find one of them at your doorstep. You're also officially invited to contact them and inquire about display and/or audio advertising.

Long story short (too late?), 2016 is going to be a great year for #TeamENP and we're excited about it. Expect more news, more sports, more radio, and just plain more East Niagara Post. We'll deliver it same as we always have -- via EastNiagaraPost.com and shared to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Vine, Periscope, YouTube, and our ENP Mobile Android App. And to those of you who have been hoping for an iOS app, this is your year, too.

+Scott Leffler is (clearly) is not allergic to food. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler or email him at scott.leffler@gmail.com


This column was originally published on East Niagara Post.