Plain Dealer's Brent Larkin on HB347 editorial: 'We were wrong'

After waiting more than three weeks, the Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial board finally chose Saturday October 15 to publish a correction to glaring falsehoods repeated in a September 29 editorial about how House Bill 347, Rep. Jim Aslanides' sweeping firearms law reform bill, would amend the media access loophole.

What they did not do, however, is retract their opposition to HB347, even though the premise for which they opposed it was completely false...

NOTE: NRANews.com's Cam & Company took up this topic Monday on its live broadcast. Please listen in each day with show host Cam Edwards on NRANews.com.

What follows is an email from Plain Dealer editorial page editor in which he admits "we were wrong", and read for a link to the partial correction that has now been published.

When I first contacted editorial page editor Brent Larkin about the errors, he told me "if there is an error in the story, I will address it."

But ten issues (and two phone calls) later, when there was still no correction, I decided to try again through a different medium. Following is my email to Larkin:

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Chad D. Baus"
    To: "BRENT LARKIN"
    Cc: "PHILLIP MORRIS"
    Sent: 10/11/05 11:08AM
    Subject: Re: Status of Sept. 29 editorial correction?

    Mr. Larkin -

    I am writing again to inquire about the status of plans to let your readers know that there were multiple factual errors in the Sept. 29 editorial on Rep. Aslanides' firearms legislation. It has been almost two weeks since the piece ran, and since you told me you would be addressing these errors.

    Also - two letters to the editor were sent by myself and the chairman of our organization (Jim Irvine) back on Sept. 29 - publishing one or both of those would certainly have been another way to immediately let your readers be informed of the truth about House Bill 347, especially since this is taking so long.

    In any case, please let me know when we can expect to see an editorial or correction that correctly explains how House Bill 347 would allow certain people to protect their privacy, while still allowing the media access to the list, and that reveals that over 60,000 people have their licenses (as of three months ago, third quarter statistics should be coming any day now), not the 45k in 18 months your editorial claimed.

    Thank you -

    Chad D. Baus
    Vice Chairman/ Northwest Ohio Chair
    Buckeye Firearms Association
    www.buckeyefirearms.org

His response was less than encouraging.

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "BRENT LARKIN"
    To: "Chad D. Baus"
    Sent: Tuesday, October 11, 2005 11:36 AM
    Subject: Re: Status of Sept. 29 editorial correction?

    Chad,

    Run those mistakes past me one more time. I'll deal with it today.

After a lengthy September 30 conversation, and after a subsequent follow-up discussion on October 6, one would think to expect more from a professional such as Mr. Larkin. And so for the third time (not including two letters to the editor that were sent by leaders of this PAC), I detailed the errors:

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Chad D. Baus"
    To: "BRENT LARKIN"
    Cc: "PHILLIP MORRIS"
    Sent: 10/11/05 12:11PM
    Subject: Re: Status of Sept. 29 editorial correction?

    1) The editorial claimed that legislation "offered by Rep. Jim Aslanides of Coshocton would end journalists' access to the list of people granted a concealed-weapons permits [sic]", and repeating the claim a second time by saying that "lawmakers are seeking to close off public access completely."

    Under HB347, journalists would still have access to these lists. The bill would allow persons who are desperate to keep their whereabouts a secret from stalkers or abusive ex-spouses to opt to protect themselves from being published. This mimics a Federal law passed in 1994 for drivers' licenses.

    2) The editorial stated that "Nearly 18 months ago, the Ohio legislature unwisely voted to give most Ohioans the opportunity to carry concealed weapons. Since then, almost 45,000 permits have been issued." But the latest numbers from the Attorney General (for Quarter 2, three months ago), show that over 60,000 licensees are now protecting themselves in Ohio. We're just about to get Quarter 3 numbers, which will no doubt be even higher.

    You can download the changes to the media access provision here:
    http://www.buckeyefirearms.org/publicfiles/medialoophole.pdf

    I think this is an excellent compromise, following precedent set by Federal law on drivers' licenses passed in the wake of the stalker murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer, and would be interested in seeing if you all could get behind it with us.

    Thanks -

    Chad

What follows was the first written admission that they got it wrong:

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "BRENT LARKIN"
    To: "Chad D. Baus"
    Sent: Tuesday, October 11, 2005 3:06 PM
    Subject: Re: Status of Sept. 29 editorial correction?

    I had Phillip check (belatedly) and you're correct. We were wrong about the journalistic access part. We'll fix it the next time we right [sic] about this issue.

My response:

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Chad D. Baus"
    To: "BRENT LARKIN"
    Cc: "PHILLIP MORRIS"; "DOUGLAS CLIFTON"
    Sent: Tuesday, October 11, 2005 3:27 PM
    Subject: Re: Status of Sept. 29 editorial correction?

    Mr. Larkin -

    Thanks. I am also correct that there were far more than 45,000 licenses issued in the first 18 months.

    The reason I don't think this deserves to wait for some unforeseen editorial in the future is your misunderstanding about the journalistic access part was apparently the very reason you all wrote an editorial opposing the legislation, calling for the bill to be buried in committee or vetoed by the governor.

    From the editorial: "The permit information belongs to the public, which pays for its collection and storage, as well as the salaries of those who do the work. That lawmakers would show such flagrant disregard for the public's rights is reprehensible."

    Could you help me understand why this will have to wait for the next time you write about this issue, when other corrections this month came an average of two days after the problem was first published? Is it common to falsely accuse a lawmaker of a "flagrant disregard for the public's rights" while misrepresenting the legislation, and then not correct it until some unforeseen editorial to come?

    I'm just not understanding why something like this is not being corrected immediately.

    Chad

Although I received no response from Larkin, I can now report that, after more than three weeks since his initial admission of the errors, Brent Larkin has finally published a correction in Saturday, October 15 (Saturdays are generally recognized as the lowest nespaper circulation day of the week):

    Correction

    Saturday, October 15, 2005

    A Sept. 29 editorial incorrectly stated that a bill pending in the Ohio legislature would end journalists' access to the list of persons granted a permit to carry concealed weapons. Instead, the bill would give permit holders the option of withholding their names from publication. More than 60,000 Ohioans are licensed to carry concealed weapons.

So does the Plain Dealer editorial board still oppose House Bill 347, since the reason it gave for opposing the bill was a fabrication? So far, Brent Larkin isn't saying...

Related Stories:
Ten days and counting: No correction of erroneous Plain Dealer editorial

New details on Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial controversy revealed on NRANews

Plain Dealer editorial repeats lies about Ohio's firearms law reform bill

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