Bowling Green Newspaper Editor Fired over Gun-Related Editorial

I recently did a post on an Ohio gun group’s criticism of BGSU faculty and staff who contacted their legislators to oppose campus-carry legislation that has passed the Ohio House and is now being considered by the Ohio Senate: https://academeblog.org/2015/12/01/ohio-gun-group-castigates-bgsu-faculty-for-expressing-opposition-to-campus-carry-legislation/

In a very related story, the editor of the local newspaper, the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune, was fired for submitting an editorial critical of the gun group’s tactics.

Writing for Creators.com, Connie Schultz provides a detailed summary of the issues involved and an incisive argument against what the newspaper’s publisher has done:

“Five days after the shootings in San Bernardino, California, Jan Larson McLaughlin sat down in her home office on her day off and wrote her weekly editorial for the Sentinel-Tribune, circulation 9,000, in Bowling Green, Ohio.

“McLaughlin has worked for the newspaper for 31 years, the past 2 1/2 as editor-in-chief. She usually writes her editorial in the newsroom, but this one required special care. She was taking on the National Rifle Association, and she was doing it in Ohio.

“Her editorial began: ‘It is time for reasonable gun owners to take back control of the association that supposedly represents them.

“’We as a nation are still mourning one mass shooting when the next occurs. Yet the NRA refuses to discuss any type of gun control, any form of background checks, any type of study that might lead to some answers.

“’Instead, when legislators consider measures to reduce gun deaths, the NRA and its tentacle groups assign them failing grades and label them as anti-gun.’”

“She then focused on the Buckeye Firearms Association for its ‘blasted criticism’ of Bowling Green State University faculty members who had written to state Rep. Tim Brown asking that he not support legislation to allow concealed carry of firearms on Ohio college campuses. Brown voted for it. . . .

“After defending the faculty members, McLaughlin ended her editorial with a plea:

“’We’ve tried arming every citizen who is so inclined. It hasn’t solved the problem. So let’s look for other solutions, ones that reasonable gun owners can support. But that will mean responsible gun owners are first going to have to take back control of their national organization, which seems more concerned about the gun industry than the average gun owner.’

The newspaper’s publisher refused to run the editorial even when petitioned by the whole editorial staff to do so, and refused to explain the decision to McLaughlin or anyone else. Within days, McLaughlin was told that she was being terminated for insubordination—“for doing what she always does, which is to share her editorial with staff writers.”

McLaughlin’s firing has aroused a good deal of grassroots expressions of support for her and protests against the newspaper’s publisher.

Schultz concludes her article:

“You could reasonably ask, “Why should I care what happened at a small-town newspaper in Ohio? . . .

“Editorials such as McLaughlin’s matter because they reach the rest of America and can embolden citizens to pressure elected officials for gun law reform. Silencing the Jan Larson McLaughlins in this country emboldens only the NRA. . . .

“McLaughlin said that before she left the building, the publisher offered her a severance package.

“For her 31 years of service, the paper was willing to pay Jan Larson McLaughlin $5,000 — but only if she agreed not to talk about what had happened.

“To the benefit of all of us, she declined.”

The complete text of Connie Schultz’s article “Editor Is Fired but Not Silenced over the NRA” is available at: http://www.creators.com/liberal/connie-schultz.html.

 

The Toledo Blade subsequently published an article on both McLaughlin’s firing and the grassroots protests:

“News of Mrs. McLaughlin’s firing exploded on social media, including creation of the hashtag #istandwithjan on Twitter. People who commented even posted their support for Mrs. McLaughlin on the SentinelTribune’s Facebook page, and one reader posted the NRA editorial, which was later removed. Mrs. McLaughlin said she didn’t know him or how he got a copy of the editorial.

“In a Facebook posting, David Dupont, a longtime Sentinel reporter who recently resigned, called Mrs. McLaughlin ‘a strong voice for this community.” He said her termination severely damaged the editorial integrity of the paper.’

“James Foust, a professor in the department of journalism and public relations at Bowling Green State University, said Mrs. McLaughlin has taught classes and given presentations at BGSU over the years, and was well liked by students and faculty.

“When Mr. Foust heard of Mrs. McLaughlin’s termination, he said he was shocked.

‘She’s somebody who believes in the importance of journalism,” Mr. Foust said. “She has been a part of the community and the paper for a long time, and it’s a shame actually.’”

The complete article in the Toledo Blade, written by Jennifer Feehan, is available at: http://m.toledoblade.com/local/2015/12/16/Backlash-hits-paper-over-editor-s-termination.html

 

And this is the text of the editorial that cost Jan Larson McLaughlin the job that she had held for 31 years:

“It is time for reasonable gun owners to take back control of the association that supposedly represents them.

“We as a nation are still mourning one mass shooting when the next occurs. Yet the NRA refuses to discuss any type of gun control, any form of background checks, any type of study that might lead to some answers.

“Instead, when legislators consider measures to reduce gun deaths, the NRA and its tentacle groups assign them failing grades and label them as anti-gun.

“National leaders, who talk tough about protecting our borders from threats, last week voted down legislation that would prevent people on our nation’s ‘no-fly lists’ from legally buying guns. That seems like a no-brainer, but some of our elected officials are so scared of getting on the NRA’s naughty list that they won’t even take common sense steps on gun control.

“Recently, the Buckeye Firearms Association went a step further and blasted criticism at Bowling Green State University faculty members who had written to State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, asking him to not support legislation allowing concealed carry of firearms on Ohio college campuses. House Bill 48, which has since passed the House, allows hidden loaded weapons to be carried on college campuses, school safety zones, day care facilities, public areas of airport terminals, police stations, and certain government facilities. Brown, who voted for the bill, said it primarily ‘cleaned up the statute’ of where concealed guns can legally be carried in Ohio.

“The gun association got the list of BGSU faculty who wrote to Brown by filing a Freedom of Information Act request. The group specifically targeted James Evans, a geology professor, for his email to Brown in which he called the NRA a ‘terrorist organization.’

“The Buckeye Firearms Association stated the definition of terrorism as ‘the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.’

“As far as Evans is concerned, the NRA meets that definition—except that in the U.S., it’s legal.

“The Buckeye Firearms Association went on to publish the names and email addresses of BGSU faculty who contacted Brown with their comments, plus a photograph of Evans, who had used his private email to send his comments. The result, at least for Evans, was a rush of emails to him from the association’s members, with wording that he characterized as threatening. Evans believed the intent was to frighten BGSU faculty from contacting State Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, since the legislation is now in hands of the Senate.

“’I’m not intimidated,’ Evans said. Others weren’t either, apparently.

“Gardner said late last week that his office had received emails from BGSU faculty concerned about the legislation.

“The Buckeye Firearms Association accused BGSU faculty of violating policy prohibiting their use of university email to contact their legislators.

“However, there is no policy in place that prohibits such use. Dave Kielmeyer, university spokesman, said that faculty and staff are encouraged to avoid using BGSU email accounts to advocate their personal positions. But in response to the accusations by the gun group, the university issued a statement that ‘discussions by academics via university email or list serves on social issues, particularly those affecting the learning environment at BGSU, are absolutely appropriate.’

“The criticism of faculty input seems to be one more effort by the gun lobby to take the focus off the issue of gun violence.

“Recently, when the subject of firearm deaths comes up, the gun industry shifts the discussion to mental health issues as the true problem. Often it’s the two together (guns and mental illness) that create a deadly combination, so why not tackle both?

“No freedom—even those granted in the Constitution—comes without limits. When enacted, the Second Amendment did not mean any American could openly carry assault weapons and not be stopped until they start shooting. When the forefathers penned ‘well regulated militia,’ I doubt they meant any individual with a gun. It’s important to note that they included the word ‘regulated’—as in subject to controls.

“When BGSU’s Evans heard last week about the latest mass shooting, this one in San Bernadino, California, his thoughts were again, ‘Here is another tragedy.’

“’The answer is not more guns,’ he said.

“We’ve tried arming every citizen who is so inclined. It hasn’t solved the problem. So let’s look for other solutions, ones that reasonable gun owners can support. But that will mean responsible gun owners are first going to have to take back control of their national organization, which seems more concerned about the gun industry than the average gun owner.

“The NRA has not always been the paranoid ‘pry the gun from my cold dead hands’ organization that it is now. It was formerly an association aimed at serving its membership by providing safety classes, marksmanship training and even gun control support. But somewhere it got hijacked from its real purpose to its fanatical presence. It’s time for reasonable gun owners to say enough is enough.”

 

 

2 thoughts on “Bowling Green Newspaper Editor Fired over Gun-Related Editorial

  1. “… somewhere it got hijacked from its real purpose to its fanatical presence. It’s time for reasonable gun owners to say enough is enough.”

    I’d say it became more fanatical in response to the increased pressure the 2nd amendment has faced since the 60’s.

    The answer, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. When we stop letting fanatics run the liberal vs conservative media madness show world we all have become accustomed to, maybe we can find that middle ground.

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