January 18, 2004
Toledo Blade

by Marilou Johanek

Ohioans held hostage by the Republicans

Tom Ridge should issue a red alert just for Ohio. We live in a perpetual state of emergency. Columbus is the cause of our distress. We're being held hostage by the Republican leadership. Officials elected to act in the people's best interest are little more than scoundrels in suits who have only special interests at heart. They fiddle like fools while population and jobs steadily leave the Buckeye State for greener pastures.

There's no better proof of public duty abdicated on a grand scale than the recently passed concealed-carry legislation. It replaced a law that had served Ohioans well for 145 years with one that introduces risk to everyday life. Citizens used to be banned from secretly carrying guns in public. The prohibition was sound, sensible, protective public policy.

Commentary by Chad D. Baus inserted in blue.

The public thought so, too. There was never any huge outcry by voters that the concealed weapons ban be lifted.

We can't help but wonder what Johanek would consider to be a "huge outcry", since twenty large 'Defense' Walks in a span of two months, attended by thousands, don't fit the bill for her. Ohio hasn't seem that kind of spontaneous state-wide civil uprising in a very long-time, yet that fact didn't make the news. Perhaps she should ask her legislators if voters were weighing in. We've been told the phones at the Statehouse and Governor's office were ringing off the hook, and overwhelmingly pro-concealed carry.

Frankly, on the list of priorities Main Street is preoccupied with, carrying hidden handguns is a no show. Here's a news bulletin: People are worried about jobs - finding or keeping one. They lose sleep over affording health care and prescriptions with little or no insurance. Those lucky enough to carry coverage seem to pay more for the privilege every Jan. 1. It's about education and the economy, stupid. It's about holding down a couple of minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet. It's about living paycheck to paycheck and accumulating staggering debt. It's about trying to get ahead of the game and falling further behind. But not by any stretch of the imagination is it about packing concealed heat.

Of course, there are far too many families like the Gordons in Ohio, who would give anything at all to be worrying only about the things Johanek mentions above. These things seem very petty to those with a family member who has been slain by a thug, and they're definitely no concern for the person who has been killed.

Yet when pressed for an opinion on the matter, a healthy majority of Ohioans said they'd never vote for it. Gun ownership is one thing. Concealed weaponry is pushing the envelope. Carrying a handgun in a purse or holstered under a jacket is unnecessary and not in the public welfare. Clear enough?

You'll be hearing veiled references to this phantom poll a lot from the gun ban extremists and liberal media. What they will not tell you is that, in a question which most closely resembled the law which was just passed by the legislature, Ohioans responded 67% in favor of a concealed carry law. This was from the most recent statewide poll conducted - the Buckeye State Poll.

Ordinarily, a government of, by, and for the people would note the clear public sentiment against carrying hidden guns and quickly table further talk of such risky nonsense. But the tables have a way of turning when the controlling party morphs into something more powerful than public servant. It happens when the fortunate few wielding the gavel reward the fortunate few because they can.

So what could never pass in a balanced forum with vigorous debate sails through a partisan portal to law with muted objection.

If Johanek believes concealed carry "sailed through" with "muted objection", she just hasn't been paying attention, or even reading her own newspaper. What she really means here is that she can't understand why there was so MUCH dragging of the feet on this, and SO MUCH attention to it, and alarm bell ringing by liberal editorial boards like the Blade's, yet still only a "muted objection" from the public. For months and years, editorial boards and gun ban extremists have tried to scare the public into believing that laws which work in 45 other states would not work here. And for months and years, they've been complaining that the public blithely unaware. What they can't seem to understand that the objection seemed muted because that's how a small minority sounds in the presence of a large crowd.

Against the will of the people - who are struggling with far more important issues - state lawmakers passed a concealed weapons bill because they could. Not only did they have a lock on the legislature, they had the heft of the National Rifle Association leaning on holdouts to vote in their best interest. Re-election campaigns can be costly.

In the end the only one left to speak for the overwhelming number of Ohioans dead set against carrying hidden guns was Bob Taft. The lame duck governor had the political capital to do the right thing. He hesitated. Said he needed the support of the state's three major law enforcement agencies before signing concealed carry into law.

He got it from the Buckeye Sheriffs Association. The most the Fraternal Order of Police and Ohio Highway Patrol Association could offer was neutrality. That sounded like support to the inheritor of the Taft dynasty and he buckled.

Johanek and other extremists seem to think they can still use their twisted logic to equal law enforcement opposition, but the truth is, neutrality should most accurately be perceived as not caring either way. Ohio's 88 county sheriffs are the highest-ranking law enforcement officials in the land, To read about the many sheriffs who DO care and who wanted the law passed, click here.

Also consider why Gahanna Deputy Police Chief Larry Rinehart cares a lot. His sister was shot to death two years ago by her estranged husband. Last May, he testified before the House and Senate in favor of HB12, noting that as a police officer "I cannot guarantee the safety of any citizens of Gahanna." Rinehart went on to say that "safety is a right and responsibility of the individual. Conceal-and-carry is a tool to be used in an emergency." The police officer also mentioned someone who truly doesn't care what is going on in the General Assembly, and we wish Johanek and other anti-self-defense extremists would take note: "Criminals carry guns, and they don’t give a hoot what goes on in these chambers."

But at the eleventh hour he stalled again. He insisted the general public have access to what is rightfully public information about who applies for a permit to carry a hidden weapon. The Republican-controlled legislature didn't blink. It had the governor's number. Throw him a carrot and he'll cave.

It worked.

With journalists given access to permit-holder records denied to the general public, the governor said he looked forward to signing a law nobody but special interests and a small but aggressive group of gun rights activists wanted.

These special interests and small groups of gun rights activists she refers to - could the possibly be some of the one quarter of a million Ohioans represented by the Ohio Civil Defense Coalition brought together by OFCC?

It's just a matter of time before the fortunate few with friends in high places chip away at the restrictive provisions in the concealed carry law to eliminate irksome elements like public records and background checks.

Actually, these two issues, mentioned time and again Senator Fingerhut in his post HB12-passage comments, do less to deflate the crime-fighting impact of this bill than do certain other restrictive provisions. Still, we can only hope she's right in saying the "restrictive provisions" will soon be "chipped away". Experience from other states proves more lives will be saved by making it possible for more people to carry.

And they'll get away with it as long as representative government is under attack in Ohio by politicians driven to distraction by power and influence peddling.

Please, somebody, somewhere, send help.

Help is on the way, Ms. Johanek. They'll be wearing long, white coats, and offer you a ultra-long-sleeved shirt that ties in the back. Just do what they say - not that you have a choice. You're completely defenseless, and you like it so much you continue to hope to force it on everyone else.

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