AGAIN: Plain Dealer changes CHL policy

Just weeks after the Cleveland Plain Dealer announced it would stop wasting space by publishing the names of Ohio concealed handgun license-holders in its print edition, Ohioans For Concealed Carry can now report that another policy change at the Plain Dealer has been made to protect CHL-holders’ identities from being available to Internet search engines like Google or Yahoo!.

Soon after the Plain Dealer first began publishing the names of license-holders from nine northeast Ohio counties on its website, it was discovered that this abuse of the Media Access Loophole had resulted in making a simple Google search on a license-holders’ name turn up their status as an Ohio Concealed Handgun License-holder.

Thanks to the irresponsible actions of these anti-gun editors, information about Ohio citizens the General Assembly truly meant not to be available to the public began showing up under a simple Internet search engine query.

One of the many reasons for concern over this problem is that Ohio gun-ban extremist Toby Hoover is on record encouraging employers to consider whether or not a potential new-hire is a CHL-holder before hiring.

"The Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence agrees with the governor. The public has the right to know who has a permit so we can make appropriate choices for our families. We have the right to not hire, socialize, or share public space with those who carry hidden guns." (November 21, 2003)

By making their status as CHL-holders available through a simple Internet search, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, whose editor had already admitted to knowingly violating the will of the General Assembly by publishing the names in the newspaper, irresponsibly made this type of discrimination that much more easily accomplished.

Thanks to the persistent efforts of a Kent, Ohio OFCC member, who over the course of several weeks’ time worked with both the newspaper editor and the executive director of on an effort to protect the names of licensees from Internet search engines, OFCC can now report that the Plain Dealer has made another change with regard to its policy on handling these records.

From: [OFCC member, Kent, Ohio]
To: Ohioans For Concealed Carry
Subject: RE: Plain Dealer
Date: Mon, 18 Apr 2005

I’ve made some progress on the Google search issue.

I talked with a Plain Dealer editor and asked him directly if their intention was to make their CCW list more accessible than public records. He said "No". I then explained the whole issue of doing a general search using Google or other search engine and our names appearing. He said that when they decided to put the CCW list on their website they never thought about external search engines accessing it. Then I asked him if they were agreeable to at least removing the search engine capabilities so that someone couldn't type in my name using Google (or other search tools external to their website) and have that portion of their CCW list appear. He said that they would discuss it and get back to me. Well, he did get back to me and said that they would look into it further to see what could be done.

The executive director of called me the next day and left a message saying that she did looked into it and there wasn't anything that could be done; it was just the way the website was designed. I called her back and gave her several options regarding how it could be accomplished with minimal re-design. During the next week or two we had several conversations about it and she was actually very cooperative. She said that the PD Editors were taking my concern very seriously and did not intend for the CCW list to be searchable via external search engines. I got the impression that she was really trying to get this thing done but wasn't sure how.

Anyway, she tried my solutions and it worked. If you do a Google search on our names our CCW information will not show up in the results. I know that it's not a perfect solution but at least it's moving in the right direction.

This change at the Cleveland Plain Dealer comes less than one month after the newspaper announced it had changed its practice of publishing the names of CHL-holders in the pages of its newspapers, and announced instead that it would only be abusing the Media Access Loophole by posting the names on its website.

Before it was passed, the Ohio Newspaper Association claimed the Media Access Loophole was necessary to hold sheriffs accountable and ensure that only the "right" people were obtaining licenses. The law currently reads that the identity of a CHL-holder may be obtained if the newspaper states that it is needed for the public good.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has never proven a public benefit to publishing this information, and these latest moves suggest the editors may be realizing that the lack of a commercial good outweighs their vehemently anti-gun agenda.

Related Story: Letter: Talking head gets education in media abuse

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