Ohio Newspaper Assn. shirks blame for abuse of Media Access Loophole

In a story covering Attorney General Jim Petro’s release of 2004 Ohio Concealed Handgun License data, the Youngstown Vindicator is reporting that while license issuance is on par with other states’ experiences, the original sponsor of Ohio’s concealed carry legislation believes abuse of the Media Access Loophole has deterred even more applications.

From the story:

"The 45,000-50,000 range is historically what we've seen in other states,” said John Hohenwarter, a Fairfax, Va.-based lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. “It's pretty much what we saw in Michigan."

According to news accounts, more than 80,000 licenses were issued during the first two years of concealed-carry in Michigan since the law there was passed a few years ago.

But the sponsor of the Ohio concealed-carry law says he believes the number of licenses issued in this state so far is low.

State Rep. Jim Aslanides, a Coshocton Republican, said he believes the numbers of licenses issued statewide thus far should be approaching 100,000.

Aslanides said he's been hearing complaints from some over a provision in the Ohio law that allows journalists to obtain the names of concealed-carry permit holders by county.

Aslanides said some newspapers have published lists of concealed-carry permit holders, which might have affected the numbers of license applicants.

The Vindicator reported that Aslanides said he plans to pursue changes to the concealed-carry law in a bill later this year, but did not elaborate on any proposed changes.

So what of the notion that the Media Access Loophole is driving down applications?

Again from the story:

Frank Deaner, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association, which represents more than 250 daily and weekly newspapers in the state, said he believes only a few newspapers have published lists of permit holders.

"I think newspapers have definitely been acting responsibly,'" said Deaner.

"I would also contend that there are so many social issues implicated with concealed carry that I don't think you can isolate journalists' access to the list as a cause-and-effect for the numbers of permits,'" Deaner said.

Let’s take these claims one at a time...

  • CLAIM: “Only a few newspapers have published lists”
    1. FACT: At least 7, and possibly as many as 10 or more, newspapers (including the largest newspaper in the state – the Cleveland Plain Dealer), and at least two television stations, have repeatedly published the names of thousands upon thousands upon thousands of law-abiding citizens who reside in approximately 16 Ohio counties, including some of the most populous ones. Furthermore, what Deaner is not telling you is that many, many other Ohio media outlets have been taking the advice of his organization by collecting this information, even if they have not all published it.
  • CLAIM: "I think newspapers have definitely been acting responsibly.”
    1. FACT: When Media Access Loophole became law, the legislation’s framers made clear that the intent of the law was to allow for the checking of the potential license-status of one single name at a time. Furthermore, they informed the media that publishing lists of license-holders would be considered as an abuse of the Media Access Loophole, which was inserted after media screamed that such access was needed as a check and a balance to ensure only the “right” people were obtaining licenses.Rep. Aslanides, the concealed carry bill's original sponsor, said in conference committee and during a short floor speech in January 2004 that he would lead an effort to roll back the media access if the "privilege" is abused. "If they abuse the privilege, we can cause them to lose the privilege," he declared, pointing out that the Pennsylvania Legislature struck a similar provision after a newspaper published a list of permit holders. Sen. Steve Austria seconded this warning, adding that publishing the names of license-holders would be the exact kind of abuse they're referring to, since publishing these names would threaten the safety of the very men and women who have chosen to bear arms for self-defense.
  • CLAIM: "…There are so many social issues implicated with concealed carry that I don't think you can isolate journalists' access to the list as a cause-and-effect for the numbers of permits.”
    1. FACT: The Sidney Daily News in Shelby County made headlines last June by not only publishing the names of 87 applicants who applied in the opening weeks of the new law, but also published their home addresses, an act prohibited by law and punishable as a felony. Since then, applications in Shelby County have dropped to near zero, something that no-doubt pleases SDN Editor Jeffrey Billiel, anti-gun sheriff Kevin O’Leary (who was investigated over this violation), and Frank Deaner. In the fourth quarter of 2004, only 2 people received CHLs in Shelby County, for a total of 120 in the first nine months. However, in the counties bordering it, a total of 1325 licenses have been issued. As a percentage of population, the surrounding counties have issued licenses representing 0.457% of their population, while Shelby County has only issued 0.247%.

    The Vindicator goes on to point out that Trumbull County ranked 9th in the number of licenses issued in 2004 with 1,328 licenses, while next door, Mahoning County was 18th with 806 licenses. Columbiana County, which has less than half the population as Mahoning, issued 603.

    As OFCC PAC has reported, numerous problems are being reported in Mahoning County, including a CHL-holder who was forced to wait over 90 days for word on his license application. As word gets out about problems in certain counties, applications will naturally decline. Like Shelby County (as mentioned above), Mahoning County has recorded a steep decline from the second to the fourth quarter of 2004, going from 521 to only 141.

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