Representative Joe Uecker introduces HB328 to modify Ohio CHL Media Access Loophole
by Chad D. Baus
State Representative Joe Uecker (R-Miami Twp.) has introduced HB328, legislation which seeks to modify a provision in Ohio law which allows journalists access to the private confidential information of persons who hold concealed handgun licenses.
Under the proposal, journalists would need to submit a complaint to the court of common pleas in order to request permission to view the records. The court would then hold a public hearing, at which evidence could be presented by the journalist as to how being allowed to view to the records would serve the public interest.
The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Boose, Beck, Adams, J., Dovilla, and Maag.
Under O.R.C. § 2923.129 (B) (1), Ohio law specifically states that the CHL list is confidential - not a public record:
- "The records that a sheriff keeps relative to [concealed handgun licenses] ARE CONFIDENTIAL AND ARE NOT PUBLIC RECORDS." (emphasis added)
However, when Ohio's concealed handgun licensure law was first passed in 2004, a poison pill was inserted by then-Governor Bob Taft (R). Dubbed the Media Access Loophole, the law allowed media outlets across the state, which had fought passage of the CCW law for years, to begin using the loophole to obtain and publish lists containing the private, personal information of Ohioans who had obtained a license to carry. This practice had a chilling affect on the number of people who sought to obtain licenses (just as the media likely hoped that it would), and it prompted Buckeye Firearms Association and other pro-gun rights groups to call on the legislature to close the loophole.
In 2006, the Ohio legislature attempted to clarify its intent in giving journalists access to the records via passage of House Bill 9, which allowed journalists to view, but not copy, the list. Opponents of the change complained that the law did not define what the words "view" and "copy" mean, and ultimately it took an opinion from the Ohio attorney general's office to ensure that journalists understood that the provision prohibits a journalist from making a reproduction by any means, other than through his own mental processes, of the information the journalist is permitted to view under that statute. Even with that, however, we warned that HB9 would likely prove to be an insufficient fix.
Just last month, a reporter from The Middletown Journal exploited the loophole to compile and publish a list of elected officials in the Buckeye State who have obtained concealed handgun licenses. State Rep. Ron Maag, one of the co-sponsors of HB328, was among those whose confidential information was released by the newspaper.
Now that still more Ohioans have had their confidential information exposed, without even an attempt to explain how publishing the private, personal information serves the public interest, perhaps the General Assembly will finally agree it is time to hold journalists accountable by allowing them to obtain the information only after proving a public interest need in open court.
Click here to read HB328 in its entirety.
Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.