PD Editor: Calls to my home ''tapering off''

July 28, 2004
Editor & Publisher

Doug Clifton Defends His Paper's Action on Guns on NRA Radio Program

by Joe Strupp

NEW YORK Editor Doug Clifton of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, who drew attacks from a gun rights group after publishing lists of local residents who carry concealed weapons permits, defended his position Thursday during an appearance on a National Rifle Association radio program, in which he admitted owning a pistol and appreciating gun rights.

“I have had guns my whole life, I have a gun in my home – a pistol,” Clifton said during the 30-minute appearance on Cam & Company, which can be heard on satellite radio and via the NRANews.com web site. “Once I retire, and have more time, I will probably buy a rifle and shoot skeet.”

Clifton, whose paper during the past two days published some 3,000 names of residents who have obtained concealed weapons permits since a new state law took effect in April, also will defend the decision in a column running Friday.

The editor’s efforts to explain the paper’s actions followed an apparent attempt by a local gun rights group – Ohians For Concealed Carry (OFCC) – to intimidate him by posting Clifton’s photo, address, phone number and family information, along with a map to his home, on its Web site Wednesday.

Clifton said the posting of his personal information sparked 40 phone calls to his home during the past two days, along with several e-mails. “People were calling late into the night last night, and they began again today at 6 a.m.,” Clifton said Thursday. “Most of it seems to be focused at home, but it is tapering off.”

The uproar stems from the Ohio legislature’s approval in January of a new law allowing residents to carry concealed weapons, but enabling only the news media to find out the names of those obtaining such permits. The law took effect in April.

On Wednesday, The Plain Dealer began publishing the names, ages and home counties of the 3,000 local residents who have taken out such permits, citing the public's right to know. The paper published about 1,500 names over a full page Wednesday and another page and a half of the remaining names on Thursday.

The Plain Dealer is the fifth Ohio daily to run the names of permit holders since they began to be issued, but the only one to put them online.

“I don’t think there is anything intrinsically invasive about the public having access to this information,” Clifton said during the radio interview. “I think it is important.”

Clifton also defends the paper in a special column slated to run in Friday’s Plain Dealer, and made available to E & P, pointing out that he would not list the names if they were available to every resident.

“From the start, The Plain Dealer opposed that media-only provision, and so did most news organizations,” he writes. “We don't believe the media should have access to records that the general public is denied. And, like the governor and millions of others across the country, we believe licensure information of all kinds should be open to public view”

February 13, 2004, Boycottwatch.org:

    "One person who intends to obtain a permit said he would publish the names and home addresses of the Plain Dealer reporters if the Plain Dealer published the names of permit holders, to which Managing Editor Tom O'Hara replied: "They are welcome to do whatever they think is right."

OFCC has only republished information which Clifton (or the government) has already made public. Clifton's home address and phone number are listed at Anywho.com. Tax records on home purchase are public record. His photo and family information is published at the National Freedom of Information Coalition website, where he sits on the governing board.

If anyone is guilty of intimidation, it is Mr. Clifton. He has made public information about private citizens the General Assembly sought to protect.

OFCC's Jim Irvine will present OFCC's viewpoint on the Plain Dealer's abuse of the media access privilege Friday on NRANews.com. The program airs from 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

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