Photo by Virginia Lee Hunter
Firearms fans who came downtown to support continued gun sales at the County Fairplex’s gun shows put on a pretty good show of their own this week. Twenty people — some repeats from last time, but a few new faces — showed up to protest the supervisors’ decision to ban the show.
It turns out that the gun proponents’ appearance was not only encouraged by the local National Rifle Association chapter, but was actually subsidized by county taxpayers — thanks to one of the supervisors.
Or so one gathered from an entry on the NRA’s local Web site (calnra.org). There one found instructions to lighten the burden of attendance for prospective protesters: Just call up the office of Supervisor Mike Antonovich, give your name to his secretary, and she’ll arrange the (normally $9 minimum) parking gratis. “Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s office [is] asking for support in his stand against banning gun shows on county properties . . . [T]ake advantage of this offer of free parking,” says the site.
I can only hope that some anti-gun activists, or perhaps even people with county business of their own, came across the inducement and also took advantage of it. Hall of Administration parking has long been quite pricey. In the 17 years I’ve been reporting on supervisorial antics, I’d never heard of such a giveaway. If all the board members habitually underwrote the parking of their legislative partisans, there’d probably be no meeting-day parking left for the rest of us.
But according to Antonovich’s press aide, Cam Currier, “This was just office policy — it has nothing to do with this particular issue. If you come to talk before the board, we’ll do the same thing.” Last month, during the tumultuous first reading of the now-famous ordinance that bans gun sales on county property, Antonovich similarly subsidized the naysayers, several of whom showed their gratitude by getting so rowdy that they had to be ejected forcibly from the boardroom.
Spokespeople for the other four supervisors said only those receiving commendations from, or having business with, their offices get the free parking.
The Antonovich free-parking policy probably cost the county a few hundred dollars this week alone. Not as much as the $600,000 a year the gun show’s presumed departure will cost the county in rentals, but it’s certainly a nice chunk of change for the most Republican — and, you’d think, the most spending-conscious — of our supervisors to be denying the county purse. Particularly in defense of a thoroughly lost cause: This Tuesday’s vote was simply a formality that reprised the measure’s success two weeks before. For all the hoopla from the shooting-iron fans whose attendance was subsidized by the senior county supervisor, the vote went down 3-2, just as it did last time.
For the record, the pro-gun-show discourse was much less rowdy this time around. One man unfortunately cited writer William S. Burroughs’ critiques of government controls, thus quoting a man who killed his wife with a handgun. But others made the more reasonable case that shutting down the Pomona show was a gesture more symbolic than effective.
Yet I’m guessing that Antonovich has another agenda here. He’s the longest-reigning (nearly 20 years) and most hidebound of our supervisors, the final survivor of the right-wing trio — which originally included Drowsy Deane Dana and confessed misdemeanant Pete Schabarum — that ratcheted back county services and operations during the Reagan years. But the Los Angeles that elected the conservative Gang of Three is long gone. And pointless as his mustering out of the NRA militia may have been in terms of saving those fairgrounds gun shows, Antonovich could have a more strategic goal: lining up NRA financial backing and membership support when he next runs for re-election in his vast, demographically fluctuating district.
With just a bit of help, up front, from all the county’s taxpayers.
The basic NRA line these days (according to its Web site) is that gun owners face a quadruple threat: regulation, registration, confiscation and (only then) incarceration. But the standout argument among gun folks testifying at last month’s board meeting was that being anti-gun is somehow pro-Nazi.
This contention even popped up in last week’s letters, protesting my colleague Harold Meyerson’s stance on gun control. It was said that Hitler’s registration of the German public’s firearms made the Holocaust possible. You hear the same thing on talk radio, and I’ve even seen the argument on bumper stickers. So it’s time to confiscate this increasingly common balderdash. That Hitler confiscated the German public’s firearms turns out to be just as big a lie as anything Hitler himself ever came up with.
No Hitler biography I can find supports such a claim. Nor does any history of the Third Reich that I’ve seen. What historians do allow is that the Weimar Republic, which Hitler overthrew, did pass gun laws. It had to: The German soldiers returning from World War I had brought home all their firepower, and partisans of right- and left-wing factions were fighting pitched battles in the streets. The main problem with these laws was that they were, obviously, not adequately enforced against Hitler’s heavily armed National Socialist thugs.
You can spend hours in any university library (as I have) without finding historical evidence of the alleged Hitler gun law. But the Urban Legend Web site (www.urbanlegends.com) has already logged it as a fabrication, usually attributed to a nonexistent April 15, 1935, Berlin newspaper citation of a Hitler speech that has der Führer saying, “[F]or the first time a civilized nation has full gun registration.” Ken Barnes of the University of Memphis claims no Hitler speech appeared in this paper on this date; nor was this particular speech ever reported. (For my part, I don’t recall Hitler ever bragging that Germany was a “civilized nation.”) Needless to say, no civilian gun-registration law was passed under Hitler (although Barnes says the Nazis restricted civilian possession of military weapons in 1938).
So Hitler for Handgun Control looks like just another urban myth — like those alligators thriving in sewers and that Texas department store’s $500 cookie recipe. What’s tragic is that people who gobble up this nonsense forget the evil law that Hitler really did create in 1935: the Second Nuremberg Law, which robbed Jews of all rights and helped cut off social relations between “Jews” and “Germans.” According to scholar Alfred Breitbart of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, this was a crucial step in detaching Jews from German society, in order to subject them to isolation, deportation and death.
There were other Nazi laws as well: forbidding Jews to garden, to have pets, to write or act or sing or play music, to practice law or medicine, drive cars, play sports, graduate from school, join the Red Cross, swim or go to the movies.
Nothing about owning guns though. But then, what the NRA types seem hell-bent on forgetting is that Hitler’s real purpose was not to disarm Jews, but to eliminate their status as human beings.
Trusting the Wetlands
It’s now almost five years since the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust formed itself with a list of declared purposes that concluded with “defin[ing] how the community can save this open space and defin[ing] how the land trust hopes to acquire these 1,080 acres.”
How do I know this? Well, I was given a copy of the incorporation papers by a fellow fan of Save All the Ballona Wetlands, a self-described “environmental movement.” He also discovered that both organizations’ nonprofit tax data is public information. And made me copies of their filings.
Needless to say, there’s fun stuff in these documents. For the moment, let’s confine ourselves to the finances of the grandiosely titled Ballona Wetlands Land Trust, whose papers list its revenues “in order of size” as “Public membership dues, Donations, Foundations [and] Grants.” This organization is often referred to by Marcia Hanscom and other opponents of the vast Westside Playa Vista development as the entity that will somehow come up with the money to buy the whole thing out — at a figure Hanscom has optimistically estimated to be between $25 million and $100 million.
The Land Trust’s latest IRS Form 1023 — from July 1996 — said that the trust’s total cash on hand was exactly $180, a little short of the mark. I asked the trust’s Sabina Venskus if more funding had come in since then. She said it had, but declined to say just how much. “We’re in the process of seeking a mixture of grants and [government] funds to acquire the property at fair market value,” she said. “So the exact amount of money on hand is irrelevant.”