Sine Die 2014

I think I’ve finally recovered from my first Sine Die experience. I spent almost 16 hours at the Georgia Capitol on Thursday and it was quite the experience. I wanted to be there for not only the experience but also to give my support to HB 60. I wanted to be doing something rather than sitting back and spectating from home but I had no idea how I could possibly be useful.

I reached out to Jerry Henry, friend and Executive Director of GeorgiaCarry.Org (GCO) on Wednesday and he encouraged me to come on down and join him and others and assured me that while there’d be some standing around, there was also plenty to do. That’s all I needed to hear.

I got there at 9AM and found my way in and up to the third floor which houses the General Assembly. I immediately found myself speaking to others. Of course, I was wearing my bright orange “Guns Save Lives” button which seemed to be a bit of a beacon to others. Before the session began at 10AM, I had spoken with random strangers, Rep. Alan Powell, GCO lobbyist William Woodall and NRA lobbyist Daniel Carey. I then went into the House Chamber to view from the gallery for a bit and was there for the House Resolution in memory of the father of Rep. Rick Jasperse, who had just passed away a couple of weeks prior. It wrapped up with every single House member and gallery attendant rising in applause. The solitary exception was Kathryn Grant with Moms Demand Action. She was seated right in front of me and she ignored the entire thing. I found this to be completely disrespectful and rude. But not surprising, given their terrible displays of behavior throughout this entire legislative session.

I then met up with fellow GCO members and leadership just a few minutes later and the rest of the day was spent in complete awe of the insane political jockeying and posturing which occurs. I can’t even tell you how many reps we spoke to about HB 60 and helping clear up some of their misunderstandings of the bill. I like to think that may have helped some of them in making their decision on where they stood. It’s amazing that so many of them do not understand current law and proposed law. I understand that they have hundreds of bills to deal with during a session but bills become laws which have the potential to greatly affect our lives and they need to be given the consideration they deserve. This requires knowledge and understanding. I believe that we, as involved constituents, can help provide that.

It was also amazing to see what a playground the House and Senate floors really seem to be. It was like a room full of kindergarteners and the teacher had lost control a good bit of the time. I’d say that less than half of them were actually at their desks at any given time while in session.

Although you often hear that most of the work is done off the floor, this became clear to me, especially in regards to HB 60. Alan Powell took the lead on trying to get us an even better bill than the one the House had in front of them to vote on Thursday morning. I can’t even describe the bouncing back and forth, the games, the detaching and re-attaching of provisions and the behind-the-doors meeting of Speaker Ralston and Lt. Governor Cagle and the posturing and intimidation tactics. Holy crap. I’m tired again just thinking about it.

And, as they say, all’s well that ends well. And it ended well. It came down to the 11th hour (literally, it was 11:20), which was expected, and we stuck around to thank our representatives who worked so hard to get this bill through and make Georgia a safer , freer place for law-abiding citizens.

As for the experience, it was a good one. I think it’s important to realize that our say doesn’t just end at the ballot box. We can do more than sit at home and bitch. We can get out there and influence and support and guide our elected officials, form relationships with them and hold them accountable.

This legislative session has been very informative for me. I’ve grown in experience and knowledge and I’ve found that I enjoy it. A year ago, I’d have never imagined that by this point I’d have testified in front of two committees, found myself in multiple media sources and participated in Sine Die. Previously, I’d only emailed and called my elected officials. It’s been a big step to get involved but I’m glad I’ve jumped in.

Mrs. Finch Goes to Atlanta

So, I’m involved in an organization called GeorgiaCarry.Org (GCO). The organization exists to protect and restore 2A rights in our home state. It’s a fantastic organization and truly centered on its mission. It’s not a fundraising organization like some others out there which I will not name. Everyone at GCO is a volunteer. No one draws a paycheck and that applies from the Board of Directors down. GCO has been instrumental and crucial in the passage of all the positive gun bills since its inception. And their members are what makes the organization what it is. GCO members are people of action, not just words.

Yesterday HB 875 passed the House Committee of Public Safety and Homeland Security. This is the best gun bill Georgia has seen in years. The most important highlights of this bill is that it restores private property rights to churches and bars and affords tenants in public housing the opportunity to be legally equipped to defend themselves. The bill contains numerous other benefits as well. The Safe Carry Protection Act is a big step forward in restoring liberty and trust in the general citizenry.

I was honored with the opportunity to speak in favor of this bill yesterday. Those who know me well are aware of my dad’s history and involvement in GA politics. My level of involvement thus far, however, has only been to make myself as knowledgeable as possible and to vote in every election possible. But yesterday, I finally understood why Dad enjoyed the process so much. It’s history being made. It’s being able to actually be a part of the legislative process and not only have a say at the ballot box but to be a part of shaping the laws which are made by those put into office at the ballot box. It’s really a fascinating process up close. And it felt great to be there as it passed the committee.

I was approached and thanked by several reps, thanking me for my words and for being there. Darlene Taylor expressed her pleasure at my being there. She’s in favor of this bill and she’s the only woman on the committee who is, so I feel like she was particularly appreciative to have additional female support represented. I think that they appreciate regular citizens coming out and voicing their opinions rather than listening to lobbyists all the time or getting form letters or nasty comments and threats from their constituents. I know that we often sit at home and watch and read the news in disgust and complain about our  lawmakers but speaking in front of them, in person, is a productive way to be more involved. I think also, being a woman, that my voice and the voices of other women who were there in favor of this bill, goes a long way with them. It allows them to personally hear how bills can help or harm the citizenry at large.

I had a fantastic experience yesterday and I hope to be able to stand before the State Senate soon and share my voice before them as well as HB 875 moves forward.

Here is the statement which I prepared and delivered yesterday:

“Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Committee,

I come before you today first and foremost as a woman. I am also an NRA certified instructor, leader of a 40 member women’s shooting chapter and a supporter of the right and responsibility to defend oneself.

I have read this bill in its entirety. This is the best bill concerning gun and private property rights put forth in years and I am strongly in favor of it. As someone who is very active in my church as a Stephen Minister, Sunday School teacher and choir member, I often find myself there in the evenings and, often walking back to my car located in one of the handful of parking lots scattered about in downtown Marietta, in the dark. Current law prevents me from legally being able to defend myself properly in this situation should the need arise. I take great issue with this for two reasons: One, churches are private property and should be treated as such. No government should be able to grant certain private property rights to one private entity yet deny the same to another. Secondly, it is my responsibility and, ultimately, mine alone to protect myself. Our police are a wonderful resource but criminals are not generally known to wait for the police to arrive before committing heinous and unlawful acts. For most victims, the police are there in time for the crime to be reported but not there in time to prevent it from being committed. I shouldn’t be denied by law the right to equip myself for my own proactive protection whether it’s at the grocery store, my home or a place of worship. 

Victims are not allowed the opportunity to know when or where they may be victimized. Being one of millions of women who have been victimized at some point in their lives, I’ve had the unfortunate need to defend my life and safety. In 1999 I found myself being chased by my ex-husband with an ASP baton like many police carry. There was no help in sight and no one to depend upon to save me but myself. I felt 100% certain that my life was in jeopardy at that moment. Thinking quickly, I drew my carry gun at that time from my purse and ordered him to not take another step toward me. That day, I was able to defend myself and deter him from the harm he intended to inflict upon me without firing a single shot. Had I not been properly equipped, I feel very confident in saying that I would not be alive today. 

As a woman, it’s important to me to feel safe, secure and equipped with the ability to defend myself. As a citizen and 2nd Amendment supporter, freedom, liberty and rights are dear to my heart. The more limitations there are on where I am permitted to be lawfully armed, the less safe, secure and equipped I am and the more my liberty and rights are infringed upon. As a believer in liberty and The Constitution, I’d like to further point out that current and further restrictions upon where carry is permitted by law is, at its core, rooted in distrust of the lawful citizenry and, as such, is not in accordance with a free society rooted in liberty.

I implore you, as both a woman and citizen, to support and favor this bill. 

Thank you for your consideration.”

Whole Foods / Harry’s Jumps on the “Gun-Free Zone” Bandwagon

Among other things, I run a local women’s shooting chapter. We are part of The Well Armed Woman nationally and it’s a movement which has exploded since its inception in January, just eight short months ago.

Last night, one of my members informed me of an incident at our local Harry’s Farmer’s Market, which is owned by Whole Foods. She is a legal Georgia Weapons Carry License holder. She was carrying concealed but when she went to reach a high shelf, her top rode up, exposing her firearm. Now, carrying with a permit in GA allows for both open and conceal carry, so she was perfectly legal either way. Yet, she was asked to leave because the store manager informed her it was against store policy, which was recently instituted regionally.

She left, as not doing so could have earned her a criminal trespassing charge. She will not be patronizing their store anymore, either. She doesn’t wish to give her money to a place who wishes to disarm her, thereby making her even easier prey for a would-be attacker.

When she informed me of her experience, I immediately began sharing her story with peers. It has garnered a nice bit of attention on their local Facebook page and I’ve gotten offers of possible media attention for the matter. Currently, I am waiting to see if  CEO John Mackey, or his Co-CEO or VP of Public Affairs will respond to the letter which was waiting for them in their inbox this morning:

Mr. Mackey,

My name is Elizabeth Finch. I have been a long time customer of Harry’s and Whole Foods, but will no longer patronize these establishments, as it has come to my attention that these stores are not locations where women such as myself can feel safe. 

I am writing to you to inform you of an incident which took place in the Harry’s of Marietta, GA this evening. A woman who is legally permitted to carry a firearm in the state of GA (as well as numerous other states) was asked to leave.She was carrying concealed but when she went to reach up on a high shelf, her tank top exposed her sidearm and she was asked to leave, a request with which she complied.

In GA, with a permit, it is legal to carry either concealed or in open fashion. She was told by the store manager that the prohibition of firearms was a regional policy implemented about three weeks ago. Her attention was called to a sign at the bottom of one of the doors that firearms were prohibited in Harry’s. Now, such signs have no force of law here in GA but she has determined that she will not be supporting a business who does not respect local laws and rights. I am in agreement with her and I have also shared her experience with numerous others who are also in agreement. 

There has been much displeasure expressed over this incident on Harry’s Marietta Facebook page. Gun permit holders comprise 11% of the population in GA. Women are the fastest growing demographic among gun owners. I can speak to this personally and professionally, as I am an NRA Certified Instructor and legal gun owner with 20 years of shooting experience. Additionally, I am a member of and volunteer for Georgia Carry, which is GA’s most effective gun rights lobby. I am also the leader of  a national affiliated women’s shooting chapter. We serve to equip, empower and educate women. We have over 2400 members nationwide and more than 100 chapters nationally since our inception in January. Well over 200 of those members are in the immediate metro Atlanta area. This level of growth is evidence of the great demand out there among women who are interested in taking on the responsibility of learning to protect themselves. 

I have studied your ideals and you seem to be a reasonable man regarding citizens’ rights. I’m sure you’re aware that gun-free zones only serve to invite criminal activity. Grocery store parking lots are already traditionally viewed as “scary” places. How does taking away a woman’s means to defend herself make sense? 

Unless and until this policy is changed, I cannot in good conscience support Whole Foods or Harry’s. I also will discourage my family, friends, peers and fellow gun rights cohorts from giving their money to an establishment which attempts to make them feel less safe and lacks respect for the local rule of law. 

I do hope that this matter is reconsidered and would appreciate your response.

Best Regards,

Elizabeth Finch

Hopefully I will be able to soon provide an update of a positive response. Until then, I’ll shop elsewhere and I know many others who will do the same.