Headline: "Concealed carry five years later - Why it works"
When the decade-long battle for concealed carry reform was raging in Ohio, pro-Second Amendment advocates recognized the Lima News as one of the few newspapers whose editorial page featured opinions as firm in support of the Second Amendment as they were on the First.
Five years after Ohio's concealed carry law took effect, the newspaper's news room has proved that they too continue to be one of the few journalistic enterprises in Ohio capable of providing an objective look at Second Amendment issues.
In a story entitled "Concealed carry five years later - Why it works", reporter Greg Sowinski takes a look at the increasing numbers of concealed handgun license-holders, the police view, views from opponents, and a look to the future of CCW.
From the story:
When two men knocked on Charesa Smith's door at 5 a.m. wanting to use her phone last winter, she feared the worst. She knew about a rash of home invasion robberies happening around the county.
Smith and her husband never let them inside, where they have three young children. They called the Sheriff's Office, and the men left.
"It broke the safe barrier I had around myself and my house. I felt as if I was violated. They never did anything, but it felt like it could have gotten nasty," she said.
That incident was enough to spur Smith and her husband to obtain their concealed carry licenses. She now feels safer, she says, especially since she spends a lot of time out alone with her children, who range in age from 10 months to 7 years old, running to the store and appointments.
"It was a safety issue," she said. "I don't think the world is as safe of a place as it used to be, and I wanted something to protect my children."
The story then documents how "more and more Ohioans are carrying concealed weapons, with an enormous increase this year alone."
Most officials attribute that increase to the fear that Barack Obama's administration in the White House will take away guns, coupled with the struggling economy and an increase in crime.
Through March, Ohio reported 159,000 residents with concealed carry licenses, which represents about 1 percent of the population. Of that number, 16,323 were new licenses issued in the first three months of the year, a number that continues to climb at a high rate.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimates 25 percent of the U.S. population owns a gun of some type, and half the households in the country have at least one gun inside.
Many local counties report doubling or tripling the number of applicants for the first six months of the year compared to all of 2008. In Auglaize County, 92 licenses were issued last year, compared to 295 so far this year. Allen County issued 323 licenses last year, compared to 449 so far this year.
Insight Firearms Training Development instructor Steve Farmer, of Lima, said there's been an explosion in the number of people taking his class. In previous years, he averaged 15 in his monthly class. During the first five months of the year, he's had classes as big as 40 people and had to hold two each month to keep up with demand.
Bob Davis, a 64-year-old owner of a small business in Lima, said his job takes him to all areas of town, including those with high crime rates, where he does not feel safe.
"I just can't tell someone we can't do your work because you live in a high-crime area," he said.
Patrick Kennedy, a former police officer who now works as a psychiatric attendant for the state prison system, said he feels safer carrying a gun. That's especially true since he deals with criminals every day, some of whom threaten to hurt him should they be released.
"I just want to have a choice to carry it to protect myself and my family," he said.
The story also documents the diversity of concealed carry license-holders. Farmer told the newspaper he sees people in class from all walks of life, from doctors and lawyers to factory workers, teachers and preachers.
Farmer, a former police chief who is also a police firearms trainer, said people with concealed carry licenses are among the most law-abiding. He said he rarely came across people with their concealed carry licenses during traffic stops, saying it's because they follow the law to begin with.
Allen County Sheriff Crish, concurred, noting that people with their concealed carry licenses typically are the most law-abiding citizens. Otherwise, they would not have been issued a license.
"We're not worried about those individuals," he is quoted as saying.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, fought to bring concealed carry to Ohio as a state legislator more than five years ago. He said the law levels the playing field and gives good people the chance to protect themselves, deterring crime.
No law is going to stop a bad guy from carrying a gun, but without a law they had more targets to go after with less worry, Jordan said.
"Now they have to stop and think," he said.
Carrying a gun makes Davis feel as if he has a chance, especially when he hears about robberies where someone shoots the victim for no reason, he said.
"I just don't want to be in that position," he said.
Davis also tries to avoid being in a bad situation. He said he would much rather take preventative measures than to risk harm or be put in a position to use his weapon. He's never had to pull out his gun since he began carrying last year.
"I hope I never have to pull it for any reason, and I wouldn't look forward to shooting anyone," he said.
Another aspect of obtaining a license Smith said doesn't catch the headlines comes through the training. She wanted to have a gun before taking her concealed carry class under Farmer but was reluctant to get a gun without knowing how to safely store and handle it with three children at home.
Farmer worked closely with her to explain options such as gun storage safes and ways to teach children guns are dangerous, she said.
The story notes that, when the concealed carry concept was first proposed, those against it said it would lead to shootouts or a return to the days of the Wild West, but states flatly "that has not happened. Police and sheriffs in the region have not recorded a single case."
"Experience has proven it has not created any problems," Lima Police Department Maj. Kevin Martin said.
Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon said he remembers the few who were opposed saying there also would be vigilantism.
"That hasn't been the issue," he said.
Solomon, who supports the law, said he hasn't even had a case of a concealed carry license holder legally shooting someone in self-defense.
Van Wert County Sheriff Stan Owens supports the law, saying there is proof it deters crime. He said carjackings across the country have declined since concealed carry laws hit the books.
"It adds a deterrent. The criminal may be faced with lethal force should he try to rob or harm someone," Owens said.
While concealed carry is gaining popularity and more are doing it, the story notes that there are still those who remain opposed.
Doug Pennington, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign, a Washington-based group whose mission is to reduce gun violence through stronger laws, said the campaign is not completely against concealed carry but believes there are too many problems with existing laws.
He said there are numerous examples where a person held a concealed carry license only to get in some type of trouble. The strongest example is a man in Twinsburg, near Cleveland, who shot and killed a police officer last year during a routine traffic stop.
"These things do happen," he said.
State Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said exceptions can be found to almost anything. He said he fears that cases such as the one mentioned by Pennington can lead to responses that are not well thought out. He said some miss the point to begin with, that the right to carry a weapon is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.
"We shouldn't willy nilly be getting rid of guns because a tragedy happens. There are more tragedies with automobiles that cause death and injuries than guns," he said.
Former Allen County Prosecutor David Bowers said the risks of having more guns outweighs the benefits. As a prosecutor, he saw too many accidents and deaths occur by gunfire.
"I don't think guns are the answer," he said.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol also remains opposed to concealed carry. After realizing early on it was just a matter of time before it was law, troopers found a way to accept it by offering measures aimed at officer safety, such as the license-holder's requirement to notify a police officer he is a concealed carrier during a traffic stop, said Lt. Shawn Davis, a spokesman for the state patrol.
Davis said the patrol occasionally comes across concealed carry license-holders who forget to notify the trooper or who are intoxicated.
"Those scenarios are alarming to us," he said.
While some want stronger laws, the story says, there are those who want the law to provide more options. Farmer wants the option of being able to carry in a restaurant that serves alcohol when he's having a meal with his family but not consuming alcohol.
House Bill 203, which Huffman supports, would provide that.
Existing law makes it a crime to carry a gun while intoxicated.
Huffman told the paper there also is a pending bill to loosen the concealed carry license requirement to taking the training course and passing the FBI background check at the time a person purchases a gun. There would be no license to obtain.
Hardin County Sheriff Keith Everhart said the only change he would propose in the law is to have the person qualify with the gun he or she carries, which is a requirement for police in Ohio.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey, a supporter of concealed carry, said if he could change anything in the law, he allow a sheriff more room to deny someone who may not have landed in jail but has problems.
"That's the downside, it's a shall-issue law. I don't have the ability to deny someone who I think should be denied," he said.
Martin said Ohio law does allow police or a sheriff to take away a person's license if there is trouble or a crime is committed.
The story also notes that there is proposed legislation in Congress on concealed carry that would require states to recognize licenses from other states, similar to driver's licenses. Its aim is to do away with the confusion that exists when traveling from one state to another, since each state is responsible for making its own concealed carry laws and not all states allow it.
"It's common sense. There should be some uniformity to concealed carry law so when you move from one jurisdiction to the next, you don't find out in one state you were fine and in another you're in violation of the law," Jordan told the newspaper.
Jordan said the national bill has an uphill battle, given the Democratic leadership. Even so, he said it does have support on both sides of the isle.