The background of Portsmouth’s gun registry controversy is as follows: In 1975, the Portsmouth City Council passed Ordinance 705.30, which stated “It shall be the duty of any person licensed under this section to keep in a separate book kept for that purpose a record of each sale of any gun, revolver, pistol, firearm or other dangerous weapon, which record shall include a description of the article sold, including the manufacturer’s name and number, the name and address and description to whom sold, and the date and hour on which the sale was made. The holder of such license shall also prepare and deliver each day to the Chief of Police a legible and correct copy written in the English language from such book, containing the description of such articles sold, the hour at which the purchase was made and a description of the person to whom it was sold.” Ordinance 705.30 places a lot of responsibility on the gun-seller and gun-buyer, responsibilities which Federal and Ohio laws since 1975 have to a large extent superseded.
Concerned about what he saw as an infringement of his Constitutional rights under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Harold T. Pack, of Rosemont, wrote to City Solicitor David Kuhn on 8 Sept. 2004. (See “Timeline” below.) As chief legal officer of the city, Kuhn had the responsibility to try to promptly resolve the gun registration issue, all the more so since Kuhn is a member of the NRA and of its legal arm the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA). It is hard to believe that Kuhn as a member of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action could be so ignorant of gun laws, but it is even harder to believe that Kuhn as City Solicitor could be so ignorant of the City Charter, as he too often is. Instead of taking decisive action on the gun issue, Kuhn characteristically dilly-dallied for months. When Pack felt he was getting the run-around from Kuhn and other elected officials, he wrote a letter to members of the City Council on 25 Jan. 05. (See “Timeline” below.) As a result, Councilman Bob Mollette became involved, and so fortunately did David LaCourse, a field representative of the National Rifle Association. I am no fan of the NRA, but it appears that if LaCourse had not become involved, the controversy might still be festering and Kuhn might still be dilly-dallying. LaCourse’s long 16 Feb. 2006 letter is must reading for anyone trying to understand the complex legal issues involved.
In that same 16 Feb. 2006 letter, LaCourse (shown here) expressed the opinion that a good deal of the controversy over gun laws in Portsmouth was the result of “personality differences.” He believed that the controversy was as much the result of psychological as of legal or policy problems. The context of LaCourse’s observation suggests that it was Chief Horner he thought was the problem. Whether or not LaCourse thought City Solicitor Kuhn was also a problem, I believe Portsmouth’s gun registration controversy had more to do with Kuhn’s than to Horner’s or anyone else’s personality. As a concerned voter, I will go even further and say I believe Portsmouth’s gun controversy is a consequence of our city solicitor’s psychological problems, and more specifically a reflection of his passive-aggressive personality. Since Kuhn is the chief legal officer of the city, and running for re-election, I feel I have the right and even the obligation to raise the issue of his fitness for public office not only on ethical but also on psychological grounds.
The Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder was included in the first (1952) and subsequent editions of the authoritative Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, published by the American Psychiatric Association. The Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder, or PAPD, was first recognized and named during the Second World War when a number of draftees displayed a cluster of behavioral traits that made it difficult for them to function effectively in a social unit, especially in a social unit as large and complex as the U.S. military. A soldier must be punctual, disciplined, and team-oriented. He or she must have the ability to make quick decisions, especially in combat situations. But being punctual, disciplined, team oriented, and decisive are just the virtues that people with PAPD lack. The Marines have a motto, “Adapt, improvise, overcome.” If passive-aggressives had a motto, it might be, “Delay, screw up, blame somebody else.” That could certainly be Kuhn’s motto.
Indecisiveness is possibly the most conspicuous PAPD trait. Kuhn finds it very hard to make decisions, and does everything he can to try to avoid them. Making even the simplest decisions appears agonizing for him. As City Solicitor, Kuhn’s routine responsibility is to offer legal opinions, but he appears very reluctant to do or decide anything. He tries to get other to do things and make decisions for him. According to the Synopsis of Psychiatry (1997), “People with this disorder [PAPD] expect others to do their errands and to carry out their routine responsibilities.”
NRA to the Rescue
Among those Kuhn expected to do his job for him in connection with the gun controversy was the National Rifle Association. Kuhn did not write the NRA until 25 Aug. 05, almost a year after Pack first wrote him. Since Kuhn is a lawyer and a member of NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), he should presumably have had a leg up on gun registration legal issues when Harold Pack first wrote him in September 2004. But documentation on Councilman Mollette’s website shows clearly that Kuhn was in a dither from the start and relied heavily on Pack and then on LaCourse to do the research on the legal ABC’s of gun registration. The first thing Kuhn should have done when Pack wrote him was contact the Ohio Attorney General’s office, but I find no evidence that Kuhn ever contacted the Ohio Attorney General about this issue. What he did, after a delay of almost a year, was write to the NRA for assistance.
Kuhn should have been able to explain to Pack within days or a couple of weeks at the most that Ordinance 705.30 was not unconstitutional because under Ohio’s constitution, Portsmouth as a “home rule” city had the right to pass ordinances about gun control. After dilly-dallying, Kuhn did not make a formal decision on the issue until 4 Jan. 2006, sixteen months after Pack had first written him, and not until after LaCourse had effectively already made the decision for him, in a letter to Kuhn dated 1 Jan. 2006. (See “Timeline” below.) Portsmouth taxpayers should be thankful that the NRA did not bill the city for its legal advice as other “outside counsel” that Kuhn consults usually do. Having a city solicitor with passive-aggressive traits can be expensive for the municipality he is supposed to be serving. During Kuhn’s last four years in office, the city has spent more than $175,000 on “outside counsel” fees. What would that bill be for his twelve years in office?
In the documentation Mollette collected on his website, it is striking how much Kuhn resorts to passive-aggressive tactics, especially in the degree to which he delayed doing anything except come up with excuses for why he took so long to render a decision, a decision that was more LaCourse’s than his own. One of Kuhn’s excuses was that the NRA had failed to answer the first letter (dated 25 Aug. 2005) that he had sent them. Is he shifting the blame for his own delay to the NRA? And Kuhn probably would have done nothing if he had not been pressured by Councilman Mollette to write a follow-up letter to the NRA. When Kuhn got no response to his letters to the NRA, he should have telephoned them, which is what Mollette did. Since Kuhn seemed unable to follow through himself, Mollette was in effect doing Kuhn’s job for him. As a result, Kuhn resents Mollette, which is reflected in the snide remarks he made in his testy 18 Sept. 07 letter to the Daily Times about Mollette being a self-appointed “ombudsman” who expresses his “feelings to everyone.” If first Mollette and Pack before him had not applied pressure and expressed their “feelings,” Kuhn might still be putting off making a decision and blaming others for the delay. Kuhn works about as hard at his job as city solicitor and puts in about as many hours as Jim Kalb currently does as a clerk at Kroger’s, where the mayor still punches the cash register a couple of hours on Thursday mornings.
In his 18 Sept. letter to the Daily Times Kuhn also accuses Mollette of making unsubstantiated and undocumented accusations against him. Kuhn accusing Mollette of lacking documentation is laughable because Mollette meticulously documents everything on his website, including Kuhn’s long delay in reaching a decision of the gun registration issue. Accusing Mollette of lacking documentation is like accusing McDonald’s of lacking hamburgers. In contrast to Kuhn, who tries to keep as much information from the public as possible, Mollette believes in openness and accountability in government. When it comes to public records, Mollette is for Sunshine, Kuhn for moonshine.
Kuhn Sitting on his Ass as Usual
In that same 18 Sept. letter to the Daily Times, Kuhn accuses PDT reporter Jeff Barron of presenting only one side of the gun controversy story. Well, how is a reporter going to get Kuhn’s side of the story when he can not reach him? Barron tried to contact Kuhn on Friday when he was writing the gun story, but he was told the City Solicitor was unavailable. Barron was told to try again Monday. The Portsmouth Daily Times, as its name indicates, is a daily publication, not a weekly or a monthly. It is not the Portsmouth Delay Times, although if it was Kuhn would probably be happier with it, because if there is one thing he does more than anything else it is delay, delay, delay. I am told tracking down Kuhn can be about as difficult as tracking down Osama Bin Laden. If Kuhn is not “out to lunch” or on a long weekend, he is otherwise occupied with hobbies or other affairs.
The NRA, Mollette, and others asked Kuhn to help repeal Ord. 705.30. But Kuhn took the position, or made the excuse, that the issue of Ord. 705.30 is a policy, not a legal, matter. In other words, it is an issue for the legislature, i.e., the City Council, not the judiciary, i.e., the Solicitor’s office, to deal with. But isn’t it the Solicitor’s responsibility to advise the Council on controversial issues in which laws or city statutes are direcly involved? If, as LaCourse stated, Ord. 705.30 is duplicative, ineffective, and inefficient, shouldn’t the city solicitor so advise the City Council. (See “Timeline” below, 1 Jan. 06.) To quote Mollette, “I feel the City Solicitor, who is elected by the citizens, would assure and guide the actions or inactions of elected officials to the City of Portsmouth to avoid legal entanglements and taxpayer abuse.” (See “Timeline” below 26 Feb. 07.)
Chief Horner backed away from his claim that the Ord. 705.30 is a valuable tool in fighting crime. It is hard to see how Horner could continue to maintain that it is of any value after LaCourse’s point by point refutation of the case Horner had made for retaining Ord. 705.30. (See “Timeline” below 1 Jan. 06.) Three years after the controversy began, the City Council has finally repealed Ord. 705.30. The “Timeline” below offers a detailed record of the time and effort that has been wasted because City Solicitor Kuhn was unwilling or, because of his passive-aggressive personality, unable to do what the taxpayers are paying him to do. The repeal of Ord. 705.30 has nothing to do with City Solicitor Kuhn and everything to do with Harold T. Pack, Councilman Robert Mollette, and NRA field director David LaCourse.
8 Sept. 04. Claiming Ord. 705.03 was in conflict with two Federal statutes, Harold T. Pack, a member of the National Rifle Association, writes to Solicitor Kuhn, also a member of the NRA, questioning the legality of Ord. 705.30 and requesting prompt action.
15 Sept. 04. Kuhn writes to Pack, asking for more information.
20 Sept. 04. Pack sends Kuhn additional information, including material from the NRA.
1 Oct. 04. Pack forwards information to officials in city government.
29 Nov. 04. Pack mails Kuhn a “synopsis of existing gun laws.” Pack’s letter concludes, “Although this issue may seem trivial, I respectfully submit that a decision needs to be made soon to stop this practice.”
25 Jan. 05. Feeling Kuhn is failing to address issue of Ord. 705.30, Pack writes letter to City Council members, stating “The chief [Horner] and the mayor [Kalb] both stated they need a ruling from the city solicitor. Enough time has transpired since September for the solicitor to have researched this illegality and made a ruling.”
24 Feb. 05. A letter from Pack appears in Portsmouth Daily Times. His letter concludes, “Have either the mayor or the chief of police addressed this issue with the city solicitor and asked him to pursue the question? How concerned are the parties involved in having the city comply with Federal statutes?”
24 Feb. 05. Pack sends a letter to Solicitor Kuhn, Mayor Kalb, Chief Horner, and City Council complaining about inaction on issue of Ord. 705.30. “With Thomas Jefferson in mind,” Pack wrote, “I have contacted the Federal Prosecutor’s office in Cincinnati in regards to filing federal charges against the city of Portsmouth . . . The Federal Prosecutor’s office seemed most helpful and eager to participate in bringing suit. It is my sincerest wish that this issue can be resolved before litigation.”
28 Feb. 05. Councilman Mollette requests ruling from Kuhn on Ord. 705.30.
14 Mar. 05. Pack mails material related to gun registration issue to members of City Council, as he had earlier mailed material to Kuhn.
14 Mar. 05. At City Council meeting, Mollette repeats request for ruling from Kuhn on Ord. 705.30.
22 Aug. 05. At City Council meeting, Mollette again requests for ruling from Kuhn on Ord. 705.30.
26 Aug. 05. Kuhn writes letter to National Rifle Association on Ord. 705.30. “A non-resident of the City had questioned the validity of this ordinance. Portsmouth is a ‘home rule’ city, and under the Ohio constitution may exercise municipal police powers relating to local matters. Please furnish me with any literature or information which is available to assist me in determining the validity of this ordinance.”
17 Nov. 05. Mollette writes Kuhn a letter, which begins, “Please update me on the current status of your actions to resolve this potential conflict with federal law involving the enforcement of the City of Portsmouth Codified Ordinances Section 705.30 Dealers in Firearms and Ammunition; Fee; Records and Reports. . . . This practice was questioned by Mr. Harold T. Pack in September 2004, October 2004, November 2004, January 2005, February 2005, and again in March 2005. I have requested your opinion at the March 14, 2005, May 9, 2005, and August 22, 2005 Council Meetings in an effort to resolve this issue prior to any litigation.”
18 Nov. 05. Kuhn replies to Mollette that he is still waiting for NRA reply to his 26 Aug. letter. At some point after this date, Kuhn writes a second letter to the NRA.
6 Dec. 05. Mollette writes letter to Kuhn forwarding Harold Pack’s suggestion that Kuhn contact Ohio Attorney General’s Office about Ord. 705.30.
1 Jan. 06. Letter from NRA to Mollette, stating that Ord. 705.30 is valid under Portsmouth’s “Home Rule” status, but that the ordinance is “duplicative,” has not been effective in deterring crime, and “ties up valuable time and resources at all levels.” Therefore, the NRA believes, it should be repealed.
1. Jan. 06. Letter from LaCourse of NRA to Kuhn, beginning “Councilman Mollette and I had a good conversation about the legality of the Portsmouth gun registration ordinance, 705.30.” LaCourse repeats what he had written in letter to Mollette about ordinance 705.30 being duplicative, ineffective as crime stopper, and inefficient.
4 Jan. 06. Kuhn writes memo to City Council, with copies to Pack, Mayor Kalb and Chief Horner, “Attached is a copy of correspondence I received from the NRA yesterday, indicating that under the ‘Home Rule’ provisions of our Charter and the Ohio Constitution, the subject ordinance is legally valid.”
6 Jan. 06. Not yet having received 4 Jan. 06 letter from Kuhn, Mollette writes letter to Kuhn, which begins, “I am forwarding to you a response from the National Rifle Association of America . . . concerning the above ordinance (705.30). The correspondence is the direct result of the perseverance of Harold T. Pack at resolving this issue.” Mollette closes the letter by urging Kuhn, in bold face, to support the NRA recommendation. “I am requesting your support to repeal or amend Codified Ordinance 705-30.”
9 Jan. 06. Chief Horner makes written request to City Council not to repeal Ord. 705-30. “Ordinance 705-30 has been and remains an effective resource for law enforcement. The Portsmouth Police Department and I respectfully request Portsmouth City Council not to take any action to repeal or amend Ordinance 705.30.”
11 Jan. 06. Mollette writes NRA. “I applaud your efforts to assure the rights of citizens are protected. I agree with the NRA-ILA concerning consistency in state gun laws, with preemption providing one set of uniform rules for all to follow and easily understand.”
15 Jan. 06. Portsmouth Daily Times publishes article “NRA: City should ease restrictions.” The article begins “Even though the National Rifle Association said that city should scrap an ordinance mandating gun registration, Police Chief Charles Horner said that is a bad idea.”
22 Jan. 06. First Ward Councilman Timothy W. Loper writes barely literate letter to his fellow council members in support of Ord. 705.30.
16 Feb. 06. David LaCourse of the NRA writes a long detailed letter to Solicitor Kuhn. In the letter LaCourse responds point-by-point to the issues involved in the Portsmouth gun registry. He effectively refutes those, and Chief Horner in particular, who want to retain Ord. 705.30. LaCourse said that after talking with Horner, he observed that “It was quickly apparent that there are not just differences on public policy at play, but personality differences greatly affecting this discussion as well.”
8 Mar. 06. Ohio House of Representatives passes with veto-proof majority Sub HB347, which provides for uniform gun laws throughout the state.
26 Feb. 07. Mollette writes a long letter to Kuhn titled “Expectations of our City Solicitor from a Citizen’s Perspective,” in which he says, “I feel the City Solicitor, who is elected by the citizens, would assure and guide the actions or inactions of elected officials to the City of Portsmouth to avoid legal entanglements and taxpayer abuse.”
16 Sept. 07. Portsmouth Daily Times publishes Jeff Barron’s article “Mollette Addresses Gun Laws.” The article includes the information that “According to National Rifle Association field officer Dave La Course, the city is not in compliance with Ohio House Bill 347, which mandates all municipalities follow state gun registration procedures.” Barron pointed out that he tried to reach Kuhn for comment but the City Solicitor was unavailable.
18 Sept. 07. Portsmouth Daily Times publishes Kuhn’s Letter-to-Editor in which he denies Mollette’s claims that Pack had “sent several letters to the city that went unanswered” and that “The City Solicitor’s office wasn’t doing its job. David Kuhn received information about a city ordinance and didn’t respond.” Kuhn claimed that, on the contrary, his records show that he (Kuhn) “verbally responded twice with telephone calls to Mr. Pack regarding his inquiries, as well as responded twice to Mr. Pack and Mr. Mollette, after Mr. Mollette assumed the role of ombudsman in this matter.” Mr. Kuhn also wrote in his Letter-to-the-Editor that it was “unfortunate and irresponsible” that the PDT published “unsubstantiated statements of one person, who not only has no documentation for the statements, but also had exhibited improper political motives as basis for the statements.” Kuhn also criticizes PDT reporter Jeff Barron for not checking the veracity of his sources and for not being “objective enough to print all relevant information pertaining to the subject matter of the article . . .”
24 Sept. 07. In response to Kuhn’s of 18 Sept., Mollette writes a letter to the PDT in answer to Kuhn’s charge that he, Mollette, had made unsubstantiated statements and offered no documentation for his statements. Mollette writes that “My divergence of opinion over the last three years with Solicitor Kuhn is a matter of public record. Expressing my opinion and documenting those views is also a public record.” Mollette reviews the history of the gun controversy, providing dates and citations.
24 Sept. 07. The City Council passes a motion to repeal Ord. 705.30. The first reading on the proposed repeal will occur at the 8 Oct. 2007 meeting.
8 Oct. 07. At request of Councilman Mollette, City Council suspends rule requiring three readings and repeals Ord. 705.30.