Editorial analysis: Findlay Courier logic vs. Toledo Blade emotion

By Chad D. Baus

As I read through many an editoral on HB347 over this past weekend, I found it extremely instructive to compare editorials from two northwest Ohio newspapers.

Findlay and Toledo are less than 50 miles apart, but at least from a newspaper editor standpoint, Findlay might as well be on Mars, and Toledo on Venus.

Courier editorial excerpts will be presented in blue type, Toledo Blade's in red.

The Courier gets off on the right foot, noting that the legislation in question has been hung up for over a year:

The Ohio House and Senate have both passed a concealed carry reform bill this week, ending nearly a year of gridlock and promising to make state gun laws consistent and more fair.

The Blade starts off by implying that the statewide preemption language contained in HB347 since the day it was introduced 15 months ago is a surprise attack:

NOT content with having foisted off a concealed-carry law on a reluctant Ohio public, gun advocates in the lame-duck General Assembly have launched a last-minute pre-emptive strike on the concept of local control.

...By ramming through the bill in the legislature's waning days, the lopsided Republican majority is only proving to Ohioans that it cannot be trusted in a post-election session.

The Courier next correctly notes that the General Assembly has already worked diligently to address Governor Taft's concerns, and that his latest opposition to the legislation is new, and not, as his spokespeople have been claiming, something that has been known for months:

Unfortunately, Gov. Bob Taft has pledged to veto the compromise law because it would overrule gun control ordinances in about 20 Ohio cities, such as Columbus, which has an assault weapons ban.

In the past the governor had objected to the bill because the Ohio Highway Patrol didn't want to give up a requirement that...handguns be kept in plain sight during traffic stops. The patrol now has agreed to drop the requirement in exchange for increasing the penalty to a first-degree misdemeanor for any motorist who fails to inform a police officer that there is a gun in his vehicle. The penalty would include a two-year suspension of the violator's gun permit.

So now the governor needs a new reason to object. He and several prominent Democrats including Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman and Cleveland State Sen. Eric Fingerhut have found that reason in "home rule."

The Blade, on the other hand, has nothing but praise for a man it has otherwise been devoted to digging up scandals about for the past year, and scorn for the law enforcement office that it has previously been happy to quote as 'expert' when it came to gun legislation.

Gov. Bob Taft is to be commended for his declared intention to veto this ill-advised legislation, which would nullify some 80 gun-control laws adopted by Toledo and 19 other cities around Ohio.

...The leaders of the Ohio State Highway Patrol seem to be endangering their own troopers in supporting a provision of the bill that would allow motorists to keep weapons concealed inside vehicles rather than display them in plain sight.

To answer Taft's newly-minted objection, the Courier provides fact and logic:

Home rule is based on the Ohio Constitution's Article XVIII: "Municipalities shall have authority to exercise all powers of local self-government and to adopt and enforce within their limits such local police, sanitary and other similar regulations as are not in conflict with general laws."

The "general law" in this case might be the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment states that "... the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Of course, states and the federal government have passed numerous laws regulating where and how guns are to be carried and used. At present, municipalities can do the same, under the above-named condition.

But Ohio's concealed carry law really ought to be statewide in nature, as noted by Sen. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana. "We can't have local governments apply different standards when dealing with a constitutional right," he said.

The practical objections to having a patchwork system of concealed carry laws are significant as well. Imagine a person driving around the state to do his job, as many in sales and other professions do. He has a permit to carry a concealed weapon -- but with different laws in many communities, he might find himself in violation of the law without even knowing it. The only way to avoid that situation would be to research the laws of each community in advance, and then decide whether he can legally carry a weapon based on his itinerary of the day. That effectively removes his right to carry a weapon.

To prop up Taft, the Blade ignores the clear meaning of the "Home Rule" clause, apparently hoping their readers are as ignorant of the Ohio Constitution as they seem to be:

Gun advocates say the changes are necessary so those who pack weapons under the state's 2004 concealed-carry law won't run afoul of a "patchwork" of local ordinances. The real reason, though, is to water down gun control in Ohio to the lowest common denominator and, ultimately, to the point of irrelevance.

...Generally, the bill would prohibit local governments from adopting weapons laws that are more restrictive than state or federal law. In addition to Toledo, assault weapons bans and similar ordinances would be overridden in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and a number of other cities.

This pre-emption clause prompted state Sen. Eric Fingerhut to declare that the bill represents "the death of home rule," and he may be right.

When addressing the prospect of having local gun control laws overturned by this legislation, Courier editors again attack the problem logically:

Local gun ordinances may seem to be rational and needed -- such as those prohibiting people with gun permits from bringing weapons to playgrounds and parks. But the reality is that such laws won't stop drug dealers and other criminals from carrying guns to parks. People who bother to get a permit to carry a gun are almost always people who obey the law. Concealed carry has not resulted in an increase in crime in any of the 40 states that have chosen to allow it over the past 19 years. The people we should fear are those who don't have permits but who routinely flout the law.

Toledo Blade editors whine over the potential loss of their Saturday Night Special ban, seemingly forgetting that their own reporting has exposed the law as irrelevant, and once again conjuring up a phantom majority of Buckeye State gun control supporters:

Included among the local measures that would be wiped out are Toledo ordinances restricting Saturday night specials and assault weapons, city handgun licensing regulations (including criminal background checks), and a gun-storage ordinance aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of children.

These are all reasonable regulations supported by most Toledoans, but the Republican majority in the legislature seems eager to thumb his nose at local control.

...Most Ohioans, we believe, support reasonable gun-control laws, but their wishes have been systematically disregarded by a legislative majority that rules not through genuine consent of the governed but by virtue of power perpetuated by gerrymandering.

Both papers close with their opinions on what should transpire in the coming weeks. The Blade somehow finds that because gun control extremists' fear-mongering about concealed carry was wrong, we should listen to them again now:

Over the past two years, the concealed-carry law hasn't resulted in the "wild west" scenarios feared by some of its opponents, but neither has it proven to produce the safer, more polite society predicted by gun advocates.

The legislature thus has no valid reason to pre-empt local gun-control ordinances, and Governor Taft should keep his promise to veto the bill when it arrives on his desk.

The Courier sticks to the issue at hand, attacks it logically, and arrives at the outcome supported by super-majorities in both chambers of our General Assembly, and in 43 other states across the nation:

A permit to carry a gun needs to be valid throughout the state or it is largely worthless. We urge the governor to rethink his position and sign this legislation, which the Ohio Highway Patrol now accepts.

If he refuses to do so, there is a good chance that the Legislature will be able to override the veto -- as it should do.

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