Did media list of gun owners put these 20 guns on the street?

By Chad D. Baus

The Toledo Blade is reporting that detectives for the Lucas County Sheriff's office are searching for the person or people who took a safe containing about 20 weapons last week from a Spencer Township home.

From the story:

    Sheriff’s deputies were called to the home of Keith and Mary Tucker at 9627 Dorr St. about 12:20 p.m. Thursday on a report of a residential burglary.

    The Tuckers reported that sometime between 8 a.m. and noon that day, someone had broken into their home through a rear window and took the gun safe containing shotguns, assault rifles, and other weapons valued at about $20,000.

    Ammunition and cash also were inside the safe, Sheriff’s Detective Mark Woodruff said.

    The suspects took a door off its hinges, pulled a vehicle up to the entrance, and put the safe inside, the detective said.

There are a number of lessons that can be learned from this burglary, which fly in the face of media arguments heard every time they attempt to defend the publishing of lists of gun owners.

Let's review the facts as they are known at present:

1) Criminals will always find ways around background checks.
Even if only police and military owned firearms (as is the dream of the gun ban lobby), criminals would just steal from them. There are frequent stories about gun thieves targeting law enforcement arms.

2) No amount of safe storage can prevent criminals from getting their hands on firearms if they know where to look for them.
From the description of the safe and its contents, the victims of this crime spent a considerable amount of money protecting their investment. But all of that effort was for naught, because of the fact contained in point #3:

3) The gun thieves had advance knowledge of the location of the firearms.
This is exactly the type of advantage newspapers give would-be gun thieves when they publish lists of gun owners. In fact, a quick Google search of the victims of this crime resulted in a hit on a list of Lucas County CHL-holders published by Toledo's NBC24.com. We may never know how these thieves knew to target these victims, but it is at least possible that they were targeted by the gun thieves because they are listed on the Internet as gun owners.

4) The gun thieves felt comfortable enough to strike a home they know contained guns in broad daylight.
When defending the publishing of lists of gun owners, newspaper editorial writers have argued that if anything, being published as a gun owner would help deter a criminal from striking those homes. This Toledo-area crime proves exactly the opposite - the presence of firearms were not a deterrent - they were a draw for these gun thieves. All they had to do was wait until they knew no one was home.

Before the media access loophole was inserted into Ohio's Concealed Handgun License law by Governor Taft as an 11th hour poison pill, legislators in Ohio were warned that newspapers would abuse the law and publish entire lists of concealed handgun license-holders. They were also warned that such lists could then be exploited by criminals wishing to steal firearms, and that instances of criminals targeting particular locations they know to contain specific valuables (such as firearms), and staking out or casing residences to make sure no one is home, are common and well documented. But few listened...

The Akron Beacon Journal called this warning a "flimsy presumption", and Gannett News Columbus Bureau Chief Jim Siegel said warnings about the dangers of publishing the list of CHL-holders "elevate these criminals to a level of sophistication they very likely do not possess..." Even then-Attorney General Jim Petro called such a scenario "a stretch".

There is overwhelming evidence that criminals who want something specific are enterprising enough to figure out how to get it. As has been previously documented on this website (links provided below) some have even used Ohio newspapers or the Internet to do so!

The recent passage of HB9 marked the first attempt by the General Assembly to clarify its intent in giving journalists access to the records. Journalists may "view", but may not copy the list of Ohio CHL-holders - information which the General Assembly has declared to be private information.

When HB9 becomes law in March, the burden will be, as it has always been, on the media to honor the will of the General Assembly, and to prove they want the information only for the purposes they originally claimed (verifying training and background checks were being properly conducted), and not as a means of gaining access to foster a wholesale publishing of the list.

Given their history of ignoring the dangers inherent in their exploitation of gun owner's private information, I won't hold my breath.

Related Stories:
Rapist uses Beacon Journal to lure victim

Criminals use Plain Dealer to pre-plan armed robbery

Criminals use Internet to pre-plan Ohio gun store burglary

If Canadian criminals are smart enough, so are Ohio's

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