Hey Bob: Even the Cleveland Plain Dealer supports Statewide Preemption

By Chad D. Baus

Using the same tactic he did in an eleventh hour attempt to derail Ohio's concealed carry law, Bob Taft has threatened to veto a gun rights bill over a provision that has been a part of the legislation since the day it was first introduced more than one year ago.

The provision Taft suddenly opposes would create statewide preemption, ensuring that firearms laws are uniform throughout the state. Currently, 43 states have similar laws.

The need for this legislation was expressed most succinctly this week by John Hohenwarter, a regional representative of the NRA.

"You can’t have a patchwork of laws that no one can keep track of, let alone comply with," he said. "It’s common sense legislation." (for a list of how sporadic and impossible to stay abreast of Ohio's laws now are, click here)

Other arguments in favor of this common sense legislation have come from an unlikely place - the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

On August 7, in an editorial entitled "Chose your weapon", the Plain Dealer endorsed the need for statewide preemption of local gun control laws.

From the editorial:

Ohio's concealed-weapons law has some curious exceptions.

Registered owners may, for instance, carry their guns into non-enclosed parts of many public zoos (including Cleveland's), but not into a police station full of armed officers. They have to leave their guns behind when they visit a college campus or go to church, but may carry them in state or regional parks.

The home-rule provision of the Ohio Constitution would seem to give cities the right to decide where guns can and cannot be carried. But the legislature would prefer more statewide consistency.

Some cities - including Elyria and Toledo - ban concealed weapons from their parks. Most don't.

This page continues to look skeptically on concealed carry, but consistency in the form of statewide, uniform standards makes more sense than a confusing patchwork of local contradictions.

HB347 had very little opposition from persons testifying in legislative hearings, or from Ohio's establishment media. The legislation has the support of one of the most anti-gun editorial boards in the state. There are enough votes to override his veto in both the House and Senate.

If even the Plain Dealer editorial page, which has been no friend to gun owners, can understand the need for this legislation, what is Bob Taft's problem?

If Democrats and Republicans alike (super-majority, bi-partisan support in both the Ohio House and Senate) can understand the need for this legislation, what is Bob Taft's problem?

If even anti-gun Columbus city councilman Mike Mentel has gone on record as being willing to allow state or nationwide gun laws to supercede home rule, what is Bob Taft's problem?

My guess is his problem is at home.

A December 16, 2002 Columbus Dispatch article mentioned that "Taft and his wife, Hope have never been wild about the idea of Ohioans carrying concealed handguns". What else could explain his long history of flip-flopping on this issue than the prospect of having to go home to a nagging wife if he keeps his word on a gun bill?

There does, on occasion, seem to be a desire from Mr. Taft to be "one of the gun guys". To wit, after Ohio concealed carry became law (one of the worst in the nation thanks to Taft's consistent meddling), Taft tried to get back on the good side of gun owners, telling the The (OSU) Lantern that his decision to sign the bill "was partially linked to the statistics of declining crime rates in other states." His spokesperson crooned, "The governor has always supported the right to bear arms and has received a great amount of support from many Ohioans."

At the time Taft's office made those statements (January 2004), I wrote as follows:

...Rest assured, he will have the chance to prove his "conversion" when we begin work with legislators to "reform the reform", and remove the terrible, invasive, and sometimes even dangerous provisions which were inserted by his hand.

So here we are, almost two years later, and when push comes to shove, and as one of his final acts as an Ohio governor, Taft once again says he will flip-flop on the issue, a move akin to flipping the bird to his party's legislative caucuses.

Contrary to the assertions of his spokesperson, we are unaware of any previous objections to the preemption statute having been voiced by Taft. In fact, earlier this week, this same Taft spokesman offered no insight to reporters into whether the governor would support the revised measure.

"It has not been a priority for the governor at this point," the governor's spokesman told the Columbus Dispatch on Tuesday.

Earlier in the week, when asked by legislators and pro-gun groups for his stance on the bill, Taft gave no indication that he would veto the bill. Furthermore, in the weeks before passage of the bill in the House last Spring, Taft made no mention of preemption when he threatened to veto HB347 if it allowed concealed carry in cars or changed the media access loophole.

Ohio is one of only four states that still cling to "home rule", giving local municipalities the impression they can trump state law. How long will Ohio lag behind the rest of the country? The time has come for Ohio to pass some truly sensible firearms laws. The General Assembly should inform Governor Taft that if he vetoes this bill, he will be promptly overridden, creating a lasting memory in the minds of Ohioans who already look sourly on the Taft legacy. Even a nagging Mrs. Taft can't feel as bad as that.

Chad D. Baus is the Northwest Ohio Chair of Buckeye Firearms Association.

Please contact Governor Taft today by phone at (614) 466-3555 and (614) 644-HELP or via email by visiting http://governor.ohio.gov/contactinfopage.asp and respectfully urge him to sign this important bill and to defend your Right to Keep and Bear arms.

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