Editorial boards' collective howl over recent Clyde developments earns reply

Just two months after a collective of Ohio's liberal editorial boards screamed "we're melting!" at Representative Bill Seitz's proposal to close the Media Access Loophole and protect CHL-holders' private information, another editorial board collective appears to have been coordinated with regard to Ohioans For Concealed Carry, Inc. v City of Clyde.

Last week, OFCC announced that it had filed motions in a suit that seeks the beginning of the end for local gun ordinances. In and of itself, the news media would likely have chosen to ignore these new developments, and planned on simply covering the final outcome (which they no doubt hope favors the City of Clyde). But the news became impossible to ignore when, two days later, Attorney General Jim Petro announced that his office had also filed motions in the case, and that he is arguing strongly against the stance the City of Clyde has taken with regard to enforcing firearms bans on public property.

This week, the Columbus Dispatch, Fremont News Messenger, Port Clinton News Herald, and Sandusky Register have all published editorials whining about these developments.

Ken Hanson, Litigation Chair in Ohioans For Concealed Carry's Office of General Counsel, has submitted a version of the following reply to each of the newspapers in question:

To the Editor:

By L. Kenneth Hanson

The May 11, 2005 Dispatch editorial “Safety is a local issue” at least got the title right. Safety is a local issue. For me, safety is an issue that is very localized around my family, wherever we happen to be. Unfortunately, after the title of the editorial, The Dispatch was sidetracked into agenda driven emotionalism, and the balance of the editorial was as irrational as The Dispatch would have their readers believe gun owners are.

Ohioans for Concealed Carry, Inc. brought the lawsuit against the City of Clyde after months of professional, calm, reasoned discussions with law directors across the state. The overwhelming majority of these elected officials recognized the law for what it was, and advised their legislative bodies that a local municipality could not ban what the state had licensed. Decades of case law support this conclusion.

Strangely absent from the editorial and any of the discussions statewide is an example of why licensed concealed carry in a park is a danger. When I taped a debate with Senator Miller over his bill to allow parks to ban license holders, I pointed out to him that his introductory remarks in announcing the bill recited how many criminal acts occur in our parks. I asked him to cite a single example of a license holder committing those crimes in the park. His response was that he shouldn’t have to wait for that to happen, he was being proactive.

If that approach works, why don’t we just skip to the bottom line and post signs banning all crime in parks? In fact, we should just go ahead and make all crime in parks illegal by local ordinance. That will surely cure the crime problem in parks, right?

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No, the only “argument” they can muster is vague, unsubstantiated references to “soccer mom” shootouts. If post-game snacks were being interrupted by gunfire from parents angry over blown calls by officials, would concealed carry be legal in the 46 states it is now? To listen to these people, you’d think that Dairy Queens across the nation are being strafed by drive-by fire from minivans full of the losing team.

In passing HB 12, careful consideration was given to all aspects of the bill, including areas that are “off limits” to license holders. A very deliberate decision was made, and that is the law of the land. Contrary to The Dispatch’s insinuations, “most” private property owners in Ohio have not responded to the law by banning license holders. Quite the contrary, the majority has not banned, and the average license holder will go weeks without encountering a private business that has chosen to ban license holders. Our dollars spend just as good as a gun grabber’s. Apparently wallets containing licenses to carry and dollars to spend aren’t the minority that The Dispatch would leave readers to believe, either.

The Dispatch makes much of the fact that local representatives are best able to deal with problems, and imply that local rights should trump state rule. There are two problems with that. First of all, the local representatives have already voted. The vote of the local representatives took place in the General Assembly, and the vote was that local governments should not have the power to alter the state law.

Second, municipalities do not pull up the drawbridges and live a self-sustaining life. Everyone who is reading this has had their tax dollars, in one form or another, go to support a municipality they have never even visited. Any argument that a particular piece of government real estate belongs to one set of citizens to the exclusion of another set must fail the logic test. Are we a state or a collective of fiefdoms? I believe we fought a war over the answer to that question once.

The Dispatch’s and Clyde’s assertion that the law does not apply equally throughout the state is absurd. Each municipality is equally prohibited from adopting the laws. The difference is that most municipalities recognized it up front while Clyde needed to be taken to task. If Clyde really wants to be treated the same as a private business owner now that concealed carry has passed, I am sure the citizens will gladly stop paying compulsory taxes, and instead only pay the market rate for the goods and services they find of value. In fact, I’m sure most citizens could get behind that plan.

The editorial is extremely irresponsible and inaccurate in attacking Attorney General Jim Petro for doing his Constitutional duty and defending the law as written (The Dispatch calling it “his interpretation”). I know in this day and age of judicial activism must come as shocking to the likes of The Dispatch editorial board that an elected official would opine that a law “means what it says,” but it seems only to strike a sore point with The Dispatch when it is contrary to one of their sacred editorial positions. For instance, it would be unimaginable for The Dispatch to publish an editorial saying that local governments should each have the power under “home rule” to determine which records are, and are not, public records. What could be more local than a government’s own papers? Flip back a few editorials to get a feel for how The Dispatch would view a municipality making that argument.

The Dispatch next makes the leap of logic that somehow home rule is being “eroded” by not allowing municipalities to ban in parks, and this is therefore a challenge to the very existence of local governments. Last time I checked, something needs to exist before it can be eroded. The case law on these issues is supremely clear, and municipalities may not ban what the state has affirmatively licensed. In the Clyde case, my legal arguments have depended, in large part, upon past gun control decisions from Ohio courts. If the reasoning in those cases was valid when they were being used to strip gun rights, why isn’t the reasoning valid when used to enforce gun rights? The Dispatch is asking Ohio’s court system to commit the intellectual dishonesty of ignoring almost a century of legal precedent because The Dispatch now does not agree with the ends. Nothing would result in a movement to outright repeal the home rule amendment quicker, and I think The Dispatch and the incredible minority of municipalities who have made this an issue need to consider that.

The Dispatch’s newfound championing of home rule authority is nothing other than continuing sour grapes over the passage of legalized concealed carry over their editorial objections. Those sour grapes are particularly hard to digest when they are this devoid of substance.

Ken Hanson is the author of "The Ohio Guide to Firearm Laws." He is a NRA Certified Instructor for Home Firearm Safety, Certified Pistol, Personal Protection in the Home and can issue Competency Certifications for Ohio Concealed Carry Licenses and Utah Concealed Carry Licenses. Ken is the attorney of record in multiple litigation cases across Ohio involving Ohio's new Concealed Handgun Law, and serves as the Litigation Chair in Ohioans For Concealed Carry's Office of General Counsel.

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