Dueling editorials on HB495 expose difference between logic and emotion, facts and fallacy

by Chad D. Baus

Two northern Ohio newspapers have recently published editorials on House Bill 495, which was passed out of the Ohio House on June 13 by a 59 - 28 margin.

The contrast between editorials by The Lima News and The Cleveland Plain Dealer addressing passage of the bill, which seeks to reform Ohio concealed carry law to protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and continue a trend toward making Ohio law similar to other states, could not be more stark.

First, from The Lima News editorial entitled "Gun bill would align Ohio's law with other states":

When Ohio passed a law in 2004 allowing residents - those with appropriate training, background checks and a license - to carry a concealed handgun, both supporters and detractors were unhappy with the final wording in the legislation. It made Ohio's concealed handgun law one of the most restrictive in the nation.

Since then, the General Assembly has modified the law in several common-sense ways, including last year's modification allowing those with a concealed handgun license to carry a handgun into restaurants and bars so long as they themselves were not drinking.

Last week, the Ohio House of Representatives passed 57-26[sic] - with all six of West Central Ohio's representatives voting in the affirmative - House Bill 495 to further modify the law and bring it more in line with the other states.

Compare that informative, reasoned introduction to the first few sentences of The Plain Dealer article entitled "Yet another gift to Ohio's gun lobby":

Prostitution is illegal in Ohio except, it seems, when the Ohio House of Representatives sells itself to the handgun lobby.

In a largely partisan 59-28 vote last week, the Republican-run House sent Ohio's Senate a bill to soften the state's concealed-carry law. Five House Democrats voted for the bill; no Republicans voted against it.

The Senate is likely to ditto the bill after its summer break and send it to Republican Gov. John Kasich to sign.

Fueled by campaign donations and political threats, the gun lobby keeps pushing the boundaries. And supposedly responsible Ohio officeholders, like the British at Munich, keep caving.

Anti-gun journalists love to spread the myth that pro-Second Amendment groups are buying support in the legislature, and no matter how many times it is pointed out that while pro-gun PACs like Buckeye Firearms Association are led by volunteers and are funded by small donations from hundreds of individuals, while the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence has received nearly three-quarters of a million dollars from the anti-gun Joyce Foundation, they just won't report the facts.

The Plain Dealer's analogy of the British at Munich is also quite telling. If the 59 Ohio office-holders who voted for this legislation are the characterized as the British, then The Plain Dealer editorial board members clearly think that pro-Second Amendment groups are Nazis.

Back to sanity, from The Lima News:

The new proposal does three major things:

*Makes it easier for the Ohio Attorney General to negotiate reciprocity agreements with other states.

*Eliminates the requirement to attend a competency course in firearms for license renewals.

*And fixes the definition of a "loaded gun" to match the commonly accepted definition.

The third item actually applies to those without a license who wish to transport a handgun in a motor vehicle. Those with licences already are permitted to carry loaded handguns in motor vehicles.

The bill would change the definition of "unloaded" so that a gun with a loaded magazine next to it would be considered unloaded for all gun owners. The current definition of unloaded, which says a gun is loaded if the bullets are in a magazine or a speed loader anywhere in the vehicle, makes little sense and could lead to inadvertent violations if someone were relying on the commonly accepted definition of a "loaded gun."

The proposal would also require the Attorney General to enter into reciprocity agreements with all states that recognize Ohio concealed handgun licenses. That means if a state recognizes Ohio's license, Ohio will recognize that state's license. This is similar to driver's licenses.

Under the current law, the other state needs to have laws similar to Ohio's before Ohio will recognize that state's concealed handgun licenses. That is akin to refusing to recognize a driver's license because the traffic laws in the other state are different.

Beginning next year, the first license holders will begin applying for their second renewals. Under the current law, they will have to shell out the money to take another firearms competency class. Under this bill, the class is only required for the initial license application. This is how every other state does it and how most other licensing schemes work. After all, you don't have to take driver education every time your driver's license is renewed.

Once again, we have a calm, accurate, rational description of the changes the bill would make to Ohio law.

Not so from The Plain Dealer, which was quickly forced to edit their description of pending changes after being caught by readers not once, but twice, of making false statements about the language in the bill, once in the editorial and once in a news article.

In the comments section following the editorial, readers corrected The Plain Dealer on a false statement, in which the editors asserted that concealed carry license-holders currently are not permitted to carry a loaded handgun in a vehicle.

A note from Elizabeth Sullivan: A previous version of this editorial incorrectly described current law and the changes this bill would bring. We thank those commenters who quickly pointed out the errors, allowing us to identify and fix them.

Also in the comments, The Plain Dealer's John Kroll attempted to answer questions from people wondering how they got this wrong in their news article, corrected it after readers pointed it out, then got it wrong again in their editorial:

From the editors: ...the fixes were made in the original story -- at least all the fixes I was aware of. If you follow the link in this editorial, you should find a corrected version. I don't know how this editorial was written, so I can't explain how we got it wrong again. But we've now corrected the editorial, and the director of the editorial page, Elizabeth Sullivan, has asked me to thank all the commenters who so quickly pointed out our error.

For one reader, that wasn't nearly enough of an explanation:

Mr. Kroll: I have tried for several years now to be patient with the efforts of the editorial board, but it is clear that the members of the editorial board need remedial work in the difference between fact, fiction, rhetoric and political correctness.

While an op-ed piece is an opinion piece it should be based upon facts. The efforts of the PD editorial board on the issue of guns and concealed carry holders is nothing short of an assault upon the facts and law abiding gun owners all in the name of a political agenda.

Here's hoping that if the editorial board got the remedial education to learn these differences they could actually write an editorial op-ed piece that is based upon the facts.

Kroll tried again:

I won't presume to speak for the editorial board on your broader point. But in regard to this editorial, we got key facts wrong in the original version. That's something the editorial board takes as seriously as our separate newsroom does. We quickly corrected those facts here, but that doesn't excuse our getting them wrong -- twice.

It's worth mentioned that this isn't the first time a Plain Dealer writer penned an editorial against a bill about which they were unfamiliar or had not bothered to read. Nor is it the second time...

On August 7, 2006, The Plain Dealer wrote a surprising editorial endorsing the idea of statewide preemption of local gun laws. Less than four months later, the editors reversed themselves, without noting or explaining the reversal. When asked about the disparity, Plain Dealer Deputy Editorial Director Kevin O'Brien tried to defend the move by suggesting that the language in the bill, which had already been passed by the Ohio House, had been changed to be less palatable. After I explained to O'Brien that language in the bill had not changed since they had endorsed it, and asked if anyone had actually read the bill, he again tried to defend the paper's position, telling me that the same person (Phillip Morris, "the editorial writer who is in closest touch with state legislative affairs") had written both editorials, and that he had "detected some changes." But the fact was, there had been absolutely NO changes to the bill since their endorsement.

Perhaps the reason Morris and The Plain Dealer got it wrong then, as they did this month, is because they don't actually read bills before they write their rants. Don't believe me? Take it from Plain Dealer editorial page editor Brent Larkin, who in 2005, after yet another editorial with false information about a pro-gun bill was published, admitted to me that they don't always read the whole bill, but instead read LSC summaries (which in that particular case hadn't even been released yet!). The paper eventually did publish a correction.

In short, The Plain Dealer has a long history of publishing erroneous editorials about pro-gun rights legislation, and HB495 is no different. Not only are their articles and editorials factually incorrect, they also contain wild predictions about what will happen if the bills become law - predictions that never come to pass.

Again, from the latest Plain Dealer editorial:

Under current law, those without a concealed-carry permit may not transport loaded firearms in vehicles. That would continue. But the Johnson bill would instead allow them to transport loaded magazines, as long as they aren't inserted into firearms. That's comforting, especially to the families of peace officers.

Got that? In the Plain Dealer editors' world, peace officers will be in danger if Ohio law is modified so that the definition of a "loaded gun" matches the commonly accepted definition.

Meanwhile, The Lima News concludes by noting that the opposition by law enforcement groups is unwarranted.

While the bill is opposed by law enforcement groups such as the Fraternal Order of Police and the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, it should be remembered that those same groups also opposed permitting people the right to carry concealed handguns.

When the Ohio Senate returns from summer break, we urge it to take up this reform bill and pass it into law to further align Ohio's firearms laws with those of our sister states and further reduce the possibility of accidental felonies resulting from legal definitions that differ from common understanding.

The Plain Dealer, on the other hand, concludes their editorial by complaining again that concealed carry was legalized in the first place, and calling last year's passage of Restaurant Carry legislation "foolish," though they fail to explain why none of the predictions made by what would happen in the wake of that law have failed to materialize. The PD editors did, however, did make one prediction I hope does come true:

Before another legislative session passes, the one place Ohioans probably won't be allowed to carry concealed firearms -- permit or not -- may be the Statehouse.

If they're right, it'll be a first.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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