Clifton: Why we printed the list

OFCC responses in blue:

July 30, 2004
Cleveland Plain Dealer

The media are the public's only access to concealed-carry permit records

In the past two days, The Plain Dealer ran a list of the Northeast Ohioans who applied for and got a license to carry a concealed weapon.

We were able to do so because the state legislature, bowing to Gov. Bob Taft's threat to veto a bill with no public access provision at all, gave the news media access to the list. The general public is not allowed to see it.

And in so noting this fact, Clifton has just admitted to subverting the will of the General Assembly by printing these people's private information.

From the start, The Plain Dealer opposed that media-only provision, and so did most news organizations. We don't believe the media should have access to records that the general public is denied.

We agree. Thus, the media exception to the protection of these records should be removed immediately. These newspaper editors have proven they cannot handle the responsibility.

And, like the governor and millions of others across the country, we believe licensure information of all kinds should be open to public view.

Concealed-carry advocates have a decidedly different view. That became abundantly evident during the negotiations to pass the law and exceedingly so after we published the list.

Click on the "Read More..." link below for more.

Ohioans for Concealed Carry, the lobbying arm for proponents, posted my name, home phone number, address and a map to my home on its Web site. It also reported what I paid for my house in 1999 - $550,000 - my wife's name - Peg - and that I have two children and two grandchildren (in fact, I have three).

The posting, I gather, had two purposes. The first was to say "turnabout is fair play": Public records are public records, and you're not exempt.

Here is the difference between what Clifton's organization is doing, and how OFCC responded.

Clifton and the Plain Dealer have published information the General Assembly sought to protect. They have endangered people on the list, and people not on the list. The results of their actions risks lives.

OFCC has published information which can be readly found through a two minute search on,, and even on the Plain Dealer's own website.

Clifton admitted to Editors and Publishers Thursday he has always kept his home listing public. He provided the information on his family in his bio at the National Freedom of Information Coalition website, and his photograph appears regularly on the Plain Dealer website.

The second was to intimidate. Why else run a map?

Again, Clifton's address and phone number are listed in public phone listings. Cleveland is a big place - a map gives readers an idea of what part of the city he lives in.

If anyone is guilty of intimidation, it is newspapers like Clifton's, who publish the names of women trying to hide from their abusive ex-husbands, of gun collectors who would rather not have their collections stolen by enterprising criminals, of businesspersons who carry large amounts of cash in the course of their jobs, etc. etc. etc.

80% of voters in an OFCC PAC web poll believe the Plain Dealer is hoping to deter people from obtaining licenses.

Consider this exerpt from a letter sent to Clifton yesterday, and copied to OFCC:

    I am not a holder of an Ohio CHL, yet I strongly disagree with your decision
    to print the names of license holders.

    Upon reading the list, I noticed several names I recognized. One person is
    a server in a local restaurant. I know this person carrys lots of cash late
    at night after work. Another person is a local medical provider. Perhaps
    having at least the appearance of having access to certain drugs might make
    this person uneasy when traveling to and from their office. Some are
    customers of my business. Some I expected to see on the list; others
    surprised me.

    All, however, applied to receive concealed carry permits.

    None are now anonymous.

Calls home began flowing shortly after the posting went up at noon on Wednesday. Because I was at the office, my wife bore the brunt, though most of the callers were polite. (One apologized to her and told her it was "just your moron husband" he had a problem with.) A few, predictably, were ugly.

Perhaps as ugly as some of the profanity-laced emails OFCC received, referring to persons who believe in the right to self-defense as "ignorant rednecks"?

As regular readers of this website know, OFCC has only ever advocated friendly, polite grassroots activism. In this case, calls to Mr. Clifton have not even been suggested. By publishing his contact information, we simply hope to see if Mr. Clifton is as big a believer in open access to public records as he claims.

The majority asked a version of this question:

"Why did you single us out? Why don't you publish the names of sex offenders or people convicted of carrying an unlicensed concealed weapon, or other holders of other licenses?

The answer is that as the law is now written, the one and only way the average citizen can learn the identity of a concealed-weapon permit holder is if the news media publish it.

Thank the legislature for that.

Wrong. We have no one but the Cleveland Plain Dealer and four other newspapers to thank. The legislature clearly did not want the entire list of who has obtained concealed handgun license-holders to be public. As noted above, Clifton is perfectly aware that he is subverting the intent of the General Assembly by publishing these lists.

Want to know if a sex offender lives next door? The state will send you an e-mail.

Want to know if your co-worker has a prison record? You can look it up.

Want to know how much my house costs? Ditto.

Want to know who has a fishing license - indeed, virtually any license? Correct, you can look it up. It's all public record.

License to carry a gun? Nope. The average Joe has only the slim reed of the news media to help him on that count.

Would we publish those names if the record were public? Of course not. There would be no need. Why? Because you could look it up.

You can do that in many of the other states that have concealed-carry laws. In one - Delaware - the entire process of getting a permit is a public record. And there, the law requires that the names of permit holders be published.

No one's life is going to be threatened by the public knowledge that they like to fish.

Clifton is, as would be expected, ignoring the many states which are dedicated to protecting the rights of innocent, law-abiding gun owners.

Just this year, Florida passed a law further which stops illegal compiling of computerized lists of law-abiding firearms owners and their guns. Even now in Ohio, the Plain Dealer and other Ohio newspapers, at the urging of the Ohio Newspaper Association, are compiling such lists.

Furthermore, he is ignoring precedent by newspapers across the country which know that, just because it is a "right", doesn't make it right.

Ohioans for Concealed Carry is urging the legislature to negate the "privilege" the news media have to see the names of permit holders. We agree. That "privilege" (I would call it a right) belongs in the hands of the general public.

Media elites seem to love to create new "rights": The "right to know" is a favorite these days. But whatever happened to the "right to privacy" and the "right to choose" (in this case, to choose to bear arms for self-defense)? The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jim Aslanides, called the media exception a privilege in comments the day the law was passed, and clearly this was the intent of the legislature.

As it's now written, the only people truly "privileged" are the holders of concealed-carry permits, because they can shield their identities from the public.

That's a privilege most other license holders in the state can't claim.

Clifton is the editor of The Plain Dealer.

Contact him at:

[email protected], 216-999-4123

But he won't answer for the next week - he has advised OFCC he will be out of the office until August 9.

We will leave you with one more segment of a letter sent to Clifton:

    I am happy I live in a free-market country, because I have long believed
    that voting with your hard-earned dollars is the most effective form of
    praise or criticism. So I shall.

    I will never use my hard-earned money to purchase your newspaper again.

    As a businessman, I will never advertise in your newspaper. I will ask
    others with whom I do business if they advertise in your newspaper, and if
    they do, I will cease to spend my hard-earned money with them.

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