Michael Tierney, with two stores in the Little Rock area, sends us this optimistic update on the fight against Arkansas 858 (see 'Michael Tierney of The Comic Book Store on Arkansas's Display Law'):
Sorry to have left such a provocative last post, with nothing more until now. I'm only near the internet when I'm in my store on historic Park Hill, from which you can walk two blocks and look down upon the state capital building -- a replica of the nation's capital.
I've now had a chance to review the news stories by both KARK-TV and KTHV-TV, and the results are profound. Where last week there was a closing of ranks and full support of this bill by the Arkansas legislature, but this week the tune changed to an admission of possible error -- by one of the same guys! As I said, this is a profound difference in attitude.
On Monday I talked at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's summer youth laureate program for gifted and talented children. The University promotes the concept that comics are good reading for children. I am now no longer worried that because of Act 858 some zealot might suddenly charge that was displaying harmful materials to those exact, same children. That's why I felt compelled to fight this very public battle now, when my opinions of right and wrong wouldn't be tainted by a possible criminal charge. Never wait until you're backed into a corner before you start fighting back!
I didn't WANT to get into this fight (local booksellers have been boycotted and closed for doing less), but I didn't have a choice. As a retailer with stores located on either side of the building where this law was passed, I was in a better position than most others to oppose Act 858 (and I also had a larger bull's eye painted on my door because of it).
The problem that confronts every opponent of this bill is that Act 858 has been given overwhelming support by the Arkansas legislature, with the House voting 77 to 8 and the Senate voting 33 to 2 in favor. Opponents are asking nearly 92% of the legislature to accept egg on their faces. That's why I repeatedly drew attention to my agreement with the basic concept of protecting kids from harm. Give the lawmakers a graceful way to bow out by having erred through good intentions.
One thing that I want to make clear: this is not a victory until the Attorney General rules (to continue the symbolic references). Right now he's looking at the bleeding cut over Act 858's eye. If this law is TKO'd like I now feel confident that it will be, this will not be a victory by Michael Tierney. I didn't even know about this problem until two weeks ago. I was just a guy in there swinging punches.
This would be a victory for: ICv2 and Tom Flinn -- who first told me when researching his report. Maggie Thompson and The Comic's Buyers Guide provided extra ammunition. Thanks especially to Maggie for her time in discussing the problem.
Charles Brownstein and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund pitched in their support to the ACLU and the Arkansas Library Association and several other groups and bookstores who filed lawsuits. Special thanks go to Charles for his time in discussing the matter. He requested copies of the tapes for use in the courtroom -- I hope I gave him what he needs.
KARK-TV news was the first to visibly report all this to the Arkansas masses. Thanks go to reporter Brandis Griffith and editor Ryan Gregory. KTHV-TV news reported the break in attitude by the House. Thanks go to reporter T.J. Holmes and editor Brian Bland. For their help and support, neither myself nor comic book fans, or readers of any book around the state of Arkansas, can thank those named enough. The television stations really turned this thing around. Both Brandis and T.J. researched and reported the details with an even hand. Ryan and Brian did a great job of editing. Their reporting of the concerns were pure and completely to the point! No one could have asked for more.
At the risk of sounding like someone at an awards ceremony, I'd also like to give my thanks to the many others not mentioned, who also opposed this excessive legislation. I'd also like to thank all the other retailers from around the country who emailed me words of encouragement and support. Comic retailers make up a much more concerned and caring community than some publishers would have you realize.
Hopefully that wraps up my part in this discussion. I'd like to think that I'm done with my battle against those whose stated intention was to prevent kids from accessing 90% of the reading material out there.
If there was an award won -- the kids of Arkansas just won it!