Public records show scant participation in Cleveland's voluntary gun registration scheme; Police unaware of any crimes solved

by Larry S. Moore

On May 25, 2011, the City of Cleveland finally lost in the attempt to be a medieval city/state and continue to flaunt Ohio's statewide preemption of gun laws. However, since the city leadership never met a gun control scheme they didn't like, they soon concocted a voluntary handgun registration program.

The process involved:

  • Applicants will need to bring a photo identification, specifically a government issued driver's license, passport, Ohio identification card or military identification
  • All applicants should bring all handguns unloaded and securely wrapped to the police district of their choice.
  • A police officer will verify the applicant's identification, verify the make, model, caliber and serial number of the weapon and do a record check on the gun.

This led us to ask several questions, including who would be naïve enough to bring their guns to Cleveland authorities for what amounts to a voluntary criminal investigation. If the investigation turns up nothing, the handgun owner will make an appointment to have a photo taken and pay a fee for a totally unnecessary registration process.

When I first learned of this scheme, I thought there were several problems with the process. First, citizen owned firearms are prohibited in police stations per Ohio Revised Code. Second, why is giving the city a photo identification for a gun a good idea when it's been determined that a photo ID cannot be required to vote? Finally, I wondered just how this program is working. So I decided to submit a public records request to the City of Cleveland. Let the nightmare begin!

The public records request seemed a simple approach to find out the answers. We've done them at other times and with various governments within Ohio. Silly me, I forgot that the City of Cleveland is an entity unto itself. Translation – it became an absolute nightmare trying to get the information. And some of our questions were never answered.

The public records request was for the following information:

  • The total number of individuals voluntarily registering handguns with the City of Cleveland.
  • The total number of handguns registered.
  • The name and address of the individual voluntarily registering the handgun(s).
  • The make model and caliber of all handguns registered.
  • The make, model and caliber of any firearms confiscated or voluntarily surrendered to the City of Cleveland through the voluntary registration program.
  • If any criminal charges have resulted from handguns submitted for voluntary registration, the name and address of the person charged and the charges filed.
  • The time period for this request is from the inception of the voluntary registration program through January 21, 2011.

The request was sent to City of Cleveland, Division of Police, Michael McGrath, Chief of Police and mailed on Feb 17, 2011. The Chief’s Office received and logged it Feb 22, 2011 at 09:06AM. Things went downhill from this point for quite some time. I waited approximately 30 days, which seemed a reasonable time for the city to process the request. Finally, after many calls and an equal number of broken promises, the data was sent via fax on 6/29/11.

It is all two pages of registrations! The timeframe is December 2010 through May 2011. There are 88 total lines of registered handguns. The list includes the make and model of the handgun and the owner's name and address. I don't know what kind of numbers I expected to receive but it was definitely more than 88 entries, especially given the population of Cleveland.

22 of the guns are registered to the Cleveland Clinic Security. Which makes me wonder if they took all 22 guns to the district police offices at the same time? Who was guarding the clinic if all the guns were gone?

That leaves 66 handguns which are registered to 52 individuals. The highest number of handguns registered is 5 to one individual. I wonder if these 52 people understand their gun, name and address are part of public record. We could print those names. Of course we will not do so. It serves no purpose. Just as a registration of handguns, whether voluntary or required, serves no purpose.

The many follow-up calls proved to be an education in the (lack of) functionality within the City of Cleveland government. I consistently received the run around, transferred to various numbers and left many messages which were not returned. It seemed a favorite ploy was a couple of transfers with the last one being to a phone set up as a fax. I finally got to a lady in the public records area who was a great help in resolving the issues and getting the results for us. As best as I can determine without actually seeing a City of Cleveland organization chart, there are four layers of offices each with a supervisor and at least one department head over the public records area. There are two employees in the public records response area. Figures!

So with all this overhead, with officer time involved in recording and running records checks on the firearms brought to the police, how many crimes have been solved? I'm guessing that the readers of Buckeye Firearms very well know the answer. It took a month for the Cleveland PD to come up with an answer to the question, "If any criminal charges have resulted from handguns submitted for voluntary registration, the name and address of the person charged and the charges filed." And that answer was a stunning, 'we don't know.'

However, it can be positively stated that the city's voluntary gun registration program has no impact on the crime rate. I'm unable to determine the reason for a voluntary registration program. The vast majority of Cleveland's citizens are smart enough to understand there is no requirement to register guns with the city. And no public safety purpose either!

Of course, Mayor Jackson and Police Chief McGrath continue to blame guns for the city crime rate.

A number of recent shootings have been in the news. There was a 10 day period starting July 26 in which seven people were killed in the city. The media notes that five of the victims were under the age of 25. I'm at a loss to understand why it is more important if a victim is under 25 or not. Chief McGrath claims the problem is because the state and federal firearms laws have left him with little control over the situation.

Chief McGrath, is your mission to control firearms or criminals? By focusing resources on gun control and using officer time to trace handguns brought in for voluntary registration, you have reduced resources to catch criminals. And your department doesn't know if any crimes were solved through the voluntary registration. And you blame others for your failures. Knock, knock – is anyone home at city hall?

Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a long-time volunteer leader for Buckeye Firearms Foundation and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award, the 2007 League of Ohio Sportsmen/Ohio Wildlife Federation Hunter Educator of the Year and the 2010 National Wild Turkey Federation/ Women in the Outdoors Hunter Education Instructor of the Year.

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