Upside down: Drunk drivers' names off-limits to media, but not CHL-holders'
By Chad D. Baus
When it comes to being discriminated against for exercising a civil, Constitutional, and human right, gun owners are in a class unto themselves.
Try to impose "reasonable" controls by abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or by prohibiting the free exercise of religion, and we will hear no end to the screaming.
On the other hand, our nation's courts have decided that while taking off one's cloths and dancing for pay is "speech", political discourse by grassroots groups like the NRA a few weeks before an election is not. While the elites and bureaucrats are eager to ban "assault weapons", we have been counseled by everyone from the mainstream media to the President since the day the buildings fell that we must go to great lengths to ensure that radical members of this "assault religion" are not discriminated against.
The latest examples of this discrimination against those who choose to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms comes direct from Columbus, Ohio, where Senators continue to allow journalists to access the private information about law-abiding citizens who obtain concealed handgun licenseholders and publish it on the Internet. Meanwhile, this same body recently voted to shield the names of some public employees from view on the Internet, and the Ohio Supreme Court recently decided that the names of all Ohioans convicted of drunken driving are off-limits to newspapers.
This poor view of Ohio's gun owners isn't restricted just to Ohio's legislative and judicial branches (both of which are controlled by Republicans). When Ohio's concealed carry law first was enacted, Republican Governor Bob Taft, long a opponent of the legislation, made news by removing the names of all former prison inmates from the state's Web site so that the convicts would not have to be "stigmatized" - this just a few weeks after he had insisted that the names of CHL-holders be given to journalists, who could then go publish them on the Internet.
The latest effort to keep some more fortunate Ohioans' names off of the 'Net comes in response to a continued push from the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police to limit access to records related to its members. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Senate Bill 6 would ensure that if a property owner is a police officer, prosecutor, prison employee, youth-services employee, firefighter or EMT, the online records, such as property parcels, would show only the person's initials.
Mark Drum, a lobbyist for the Ohio FOP, told the Dispatch that "our major concern is the criminal element that's using the Internet for a number of criminal ventures, one of which is to seek retribution on law enforcement."
Indeed, and yet the FOP and Senate have overlooked an equally obvious danger to many of these same public officials who have obtained concealed handgun licenses - if they have a CHL, their private information is likely already available on the Internet, thanks to any number of anti-gun Ohio newspaper editors.
Buckeye Firearms Association previously brought you the story of a prison guard who was tracked down by a former inmate by using a concealed carry license list published in the local paper. And when asked by the Dispatch for examples of when criminals in Ohio have used public records to go after police officers, Drum mentioned two: an Akron detective who received a bomb in the mail, and a Dayton police officer was threatened by a man who got out of prison and called his house.
As Attorney General Marc Dann recently issued an opinion addressing the concealed carry law's media access loophole. Among his findings is that there is nothing in the law prohibiting journalists from publishing a CHL-holders' name, date of birth and county of residence once they are given access to it. So in the name of protecting these public employees (and the rest of us), shouldn't SB6 be amended in the House to close the media access loophole once and for all?
When the bill is taken up for consideration in the House, I will be anxious to see if one of our pro-gun House Representatives is willing to present an amendment that would end this discrimination against Ohio CHL-holders and close the loop when it comes to protecting the public employees they are concerned about.
Chad D. Baus is a the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman and Northwest Ohio Chair.