State numbers prove vast majority of CCW licensees comply with gun laws; Ohio gun ban extremist still unsatisfied

By Chad D. Baus

Do a few bad apples truly ruin the bunch? Do groups of people truly deserve to be judged by the very worst among them?

That's exactly what anti-gun extremists do when they exploit despicable acts of violence, or point to a random example of illegal firearms misuse to support their effort to ban firearms ownership and defensive use.

Recently, The Cleveland Plain Dealer published a story entitled "State numbers show majority of concealed-carry permit holders comply with gun laws."

While it is good to have that type of data made available to the public, and while The Plain Dealer article is surprisingly well-balanced examination of the issue, quotes from Ohio gun ban extremists Toby Hoover suggesting that one recent questionable act by a license-holder should be grounds for cracking down on ALL license-holders deserve attention.

From the story:

People licensed to carry a concealed weapon usually pull their guns only at the firing range, police say.

Statewide, county sheriff's agencies issued more than 56,691 concealed-carry permits last year. Less than 2 percent of those license holders had their rights revoked for committing a crime.

"We're normally not worried about people who own guns legally and come to us for a permit; it's the people who have guns illegally," said Lt. Donald Michalosky, who oversees the department at the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office that deals with carrying concealed weapons.

But a parking-lot shooting in downtown Cleveland this month in which a permit holder shot and killed another permit holder has caused some to wonder if people licensed to carry concealed weapons should be under greater scrutiny by authorities.

According to the story, Matthew Warmus, 25, of Uniontown, was indicted last week in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court on an aggravated murder charge in the death of David Williams Jr. Police say Warmus shot Williams, a 27-year-old parking lot attendant from Maple Heights, three times after they fought over where Warmus could park in a lot at East Ninth Street and Sumner Court. While both men were carrying, police said Williams did not fire his weapon.

Warmus' attorney, Edward La Rue, said his client had no arrest record before the incident. He said that the shooting was unfortunate on both sides but that his client was only protecting himself.

"It is our belief that he acted only in defense of himself, given the situation he was confronted with," La Rue said.

While it would be prudent at this point to let a jury to sort out the facts in this case, Hoover says she feels the state should do more to monitor concealed handgun license (CHL)-holders.

Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, said her group wants permit holders to apply for licenses every year and receive anger management courses and advanced training.

"You don't shoot people over a parking space," Hoover said. "What we have seen in Ohio and other places is that when you have easy access to a weapon and stressors occur, whether it be an altercation or a person who feels in danger, they make judgments about where to use the gun, and this sort of thing can happen.

"This is why we objected to the law in the first place."

Hoover is certainly quick to judge the facts in this case. On the other hand, she has had little if anything to say about the many acts of self-defense by Ohio CHL-holders that have been deemed as completely justified.

Fortunately, the law enforcement officers quoted in the story provide plenty of evidence to dispute Hoover's notion that there are problems with Ohio law:

Concealed-carry permits come up for renewal every five years. Sheriff's offices in the state issued 16,443 license renewals in the first quarter of 2010.

Christopher Russ, an administrator at the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office who reviews gun permit applications, said that if a permit holder is arrested for or commits a felony or a violent misdemeanor offense such as arson, assault, domestic violence or menacing, the office can suspend or revoke the permit.

Russ also said the Sheriff's Office reviews the records of those with gun permits at renewal time to make sure they don't have a criminal offense that would prohibit them from owning a permit.

Representatives from several police agencies and gun rights groups said the majority of people who own the permits are law abiding citizens and the cases where permit holders have their permits revoked or suspended are few and far between.

Russ and Michalosky both said the concealed-carry program in Cuyahoga County polices itself.

Whenever someone is arrested, Russ said, the information goes into the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System, an internal police database that provides statewide information on suspects' records, including whether they own a weapons permit.

The arresting agency then notifies the sheriff's office in the county where the permit was issued.

"It's not like a points system when you get a driver's license," Michalosky said. "Once we see an arrest, we are diligent about suspending the permit."

Most people who hold permits do so for self-defense and comply with state and federal laws, said Jeff Garvas, president of Ohioans for Concealed Carry, a gun-rights group.

He said the group will reserve judgment on Warmus' case until after his trial.

"This is a rarity," Garvas said. "No one with a permit wants to be involved in a shooting, even if it was justified. Most people hope to never have to pull that firearm out of a holster."

In 2003, after Tacoma, WA Police Chief David Brame murdered his estranged wife and then committed suicide, and during the time when some law enforcement groups in Ohio were opposing the proposal to make concealed carry legal in Ohio, I wondered aloud about whether Ohio's law enforcement bureaucrats wished to be judged by the worst example of themselves.

In a follow-up story published soon thereafter, following the spree killing at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University by Biswanath Halder, I asked if anti-war leftists (like Hoover) wished to be judged by the worst example of themselves. (Halder's personal website contained words of support for peace protestors who opposed intervention in Iraq, as well as links to websites for ultra-left-wing organizations, eco-terrorism groups, and even Handguns Control Inc.)

Of course the answer from both groups would be "No, we shouldn't be judged by the actions of that one police officer, or that one leftist blogger." Nor should they be.

And neither should the 99.5+ percent of Ohio's concealed handgun license-holders whose licenses aren't revoked be judged or penalized by the actions of one.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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