The Wicked Witch of the Ohio Media is Melting

by Chad D. Baus

In late 2004, after a ten year debate on concealed carry reform in Ohio, the Ohio Newspaper Association (ONA) succeeded in getting a poison pill inserted into Ohio's concealed carry legislation on the eve of passage. Despite warnings not to abuse the privilege they had won, the ONA advised members to collect entire lists of CHL holders, as if they belonged on a registry like sex offenders simply for having exercised their human right to self-defense.

One year later, the tables have turned, and it is clear that members of the state's media elite hate the taste of their own medicine.

Hearings are now being held in a House Committee on House Bill 9, an "open records" bill backed by the ONA. Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), who chairs the committee, announced this week that he planned on amending the ONA bill to close the Media Access Loophole, and the reaction is as if water has been poured on the Wicked Witch.

ONA executive director Frank Deaner is screeching loudest:

When questioned on his members' abuse of the access privilege by publishing entire lists of CHL-holders in the newspaper, Deaner said "I don't see any evidence that demonstrates the need. I think the newspapers have acted properly. I do not think the media access provision has had any adverse effect on people seeking permits."

Au contraire. Exhibit #1 - The Sidney Daily News, Shelby County.

The SDN made headlines last June by not only publishing the names of 87 applicants who applied in the opening weeks of the new law, but by also publishing their home addresses, an act prohibited by law and punishable as a felony. Since then, applications in Shelby County have dropped to near zero, something that no-doubt pleases SDN Editor Jeffrey Billiel, anti-gun sheriff Kevin O’Leary (who was investigated over this violation), and Frank Deaner. In the fourth quarter of 2004, only 2 people received CHLs in Shelby County.

Deaner's biggest gripe is about the place Rep. Seitz chose to seek to repeal the loophole.

"I don't think this bill is the proper vehicle to open the debate on (open records) for concealed-carry," he says.

We didn't think Ohio House Bill 12, which is now our concealed handgun license law, was the vehicle for an 11th hour debate on privacy-invasion either.

Rep. Aslanides, the concealed carry bill's original sponsor, said in conference committee and during a short floor speech in January 2004 that he would lead an effort to close the Media Access Loophole if the "privilege" was abused. "If they abuse the privilege, we can cause them to lose the privilege," he declared, pointing out that the Pennsylvania Legislature struck a similar provision after a newspaper published a list of permit holders. Sen. Steve Austria seconded this warning, adding that publishing the names of license-holders would be the exact kind of abuse they're referring to, since publishing these names would threaten the safety of the very men and women who have chosen to bear arms for self-defense.

They can't say they weren't warned. And what better place for a discussion on what should and should not be open to the media's prying eyes than in a conference committee debating an 'open records' bill endorsed by the states' media elite?

Ohioans who have chosen to exercise their Constitutional right to bear arms for self-defense do not deserve to be treated like members of some sex offender registry. There is no reason for them to be held under suspicion, and every reason to give them the privacy that, for instance, Governor Bob Taft recently said felons deserve.

Last year, Taft (who had just months earlier threatened to veto the concealed carry bill unless the Media Access Loophole was inserted) ordered Ohio prison officials to remove the names of all former inmates from the state's Web site.

The Akron Beacon Journal reported that thousands of names, plus photos and the descriptions of crimes committed by former convicts -- records that had been available to the public 24 hours a day for six years -- were removed.

"We have found... because certain former inmates have their picture on the Web site, it's been a disadvantage for them and an embarrassment that has kept them in some cases from getting jobs, and we think that is unfair,'' Prison Director Reginald Wilkinson said at the time.

An interesting statement, considering that Ohio gun-ban extremist Toby Hoover is on record encouraging employers to consider whether or not a potential new-hire is a CHL-holder before giving them a job.

Mark Paulus, who was an inmate in the 1990s, claims he was stigmatized by the Web site, which revealed his criminal past and embarrassed him and his wife and son.

"Even though you paid your debt and the punishment was over, there was really no end to it, no matter where you went, because it was always available on the Internet,'' he said. "My thing is, when is it over?

'When is it over'? Thanks to Bob Taft and a handful of anti-gun editorial boards, it will never be over for CHL-holders, at least not until the General Assembly moves to fix its error and close the Media Access Loophole, even if it means overriding a veto from the "nation's worst governor", and enduring the ear-piercing cries from the liberal media that "we're melting!".

The March 4 issue of the Dayton Daily News features an op-ed from DDN columnist Martin Gottlieb, entitled "99.5 percent ignore new gun law."

A quick scan of the column makes it clear Gottlieb is part of the 99.5% of media who prefer to ignore the facts about how concealed carry reform actually works.

Gottlieb's rant attempts to make the case that because about 1% of eligible Ohioans have obtained licenses in the first nine months, that support for Right to Carry laws are a "narrow interest".

From the column:

...What's most striking is how small the numbers are at their highest.

In the 2000 census, Montgomery County had about 400,000 adults. Two thousand is one half of 1 percent of that.

One out of every 200 people!

Was the percentage higher in other, more conservative counties? About the same in Warren (with 556 licenses and an adult population in 2000 of 110,000). Under 1 percent in Miami and Butler counties. About 1 percent in Greene. About 2 percent in Clermont, down on the Ohio River, next to Hamilton County. Two percent in tiny Preble County.

Statewide the figure of 45,497 licenses is just over the half-a-percent mark (meaning that Montgomery County is slightly below average in percentages, despite its No. 2 ranking in raw numbers).

One gun advocacy group is complaining that 36 of 88 counties are putting up barriers, such as requiring people to make appointments to apply, which causes them to go to neighboring counties. But the group had no complaints about the top three counties. So maybe people from other counties are going to them.

At any rate, one half of 1 percent of the population would not normally be considered a political force. Representatives of some minorities 20 times that big — blacks in Ohio — must beat their heads against walls when they see the power of the gun lobby.

Is Gottlieb truly this ignorant about how the Ohio CHL program is supposed to work, or is he just hoping his readers are?

Had he bothered a little research, he'd know these first nine months' numbers are actually BETTER than other states that have recently passed laws. Isn't it amazing - even such a small percentage of the population carrying can have such a BIG impact on crime deterrence! Lower crime is something even Mr. Gottlieb can benefit from, and he doesn't even have to get a license.

What other consumer protection program, other than the "do not call" registry, has this kind of participation? Ohio is issuing approximately 175 concealed handgun licenses PER DAY.

Next, Gottlieb turns to opinion polls to try and make his case that only a few support laws protecting the human right of self-defense:

In the Legislature's battle about conceal-and-carry, the gun lobby was never able to show any public demand. Polls in the 1990s and later showed 70 percent of the public against the idea. That slowed the effort, but didn't stop it, which tells you a lot about how much power the gun lobby has.

Eventually some of the polls started to look better. In simple truth, however, this legislation had nothing to do with public opinion. It was about the money and energy of the gun lobby, and the fact that that lobby leans strongly Republican.

If Gottlieb likes polls, we wonder what he would make of this:

In a pre-9/11 poll (the Ohio Poll the gun ban lobby loves to quote), 67% of Ohioans said they preferred a CCW law that had training and background checks - just like the law we now have. Nationwide polls since 9/11 all show INCREASED support for self-defense.

In the 2004 Values Poll, Zogby Intl. found that voters overwhelmingly favor these self-protection laws by a margin of 79% to 18%. Right-to-Carry drew better than 70% support in every demographic group, with even non-gun owners indicating their backing by 73% to 23%. There is no reason to think the trend doesn't apply here in Ohio.

In other words, you don't have to get a license to be a supporter of this law. Legislators know this. A responsible, unbiased journalist would have as well.

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