Report: Ohio Democratic Party unsuccessfully tries to get concealed carry license records

by Chad D. Baus

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that the Ohio Democratic Party tried unsuccessfully last week to get confidential information on all people licensed to carry concealed handguns in the Buckeye State.

From the article:

The state party sent letters to Ohio's 88 sheriffs requesting the names and addresses of permit holders and the dates the licenses were issued. Ohio has about 211,000 permit holders.

But neither the Democrats nor any other political party can get that information. The records are exempt from the public record laws. The only public access was given to journalists when then-Gov. Bob Taft signed the law in 2004.

Lorain County Sheriff Phil Stammitti, a Democrat, denied the request Friday.

"I must also advise you that the information you are requesting is NOT a public record and CANNOT be released," Stammitti wrote in a letter to the party.

The Democrats intended to target people who support the Second Amendment -- the constitutional right to bear arms -- with campaign information, said party spokesman, Seth Bringman.

The party learned the information was not public and then sent a second letter apologizing to the 88 sheriffs.

"We asked them to rescind our request," Bringman said.

Derek DeBrosse, an attorney for Ohioans for Concealed Carry, a gun-rights group, said the law is clear and political parties are not privy to the information.

"We applaud them for rescinding the request," he said.

The group also objects to journalists having access to the information, DeBrosse said.

In 2007, OFCC made news when it too asked the state's sheriffs for the names and addresses of license-holders. While some at the time, including the executive director of Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association, suspected the group wanted to use the private, personal information as a recruitment tool, an OFCC spokesman said it only wanted to use the lists for statistical studies about who is seeking the licenses.

For their own part, Ohio Democrat Party spokesman Seth Bringman told the Plain Dealer they intended to target people who support the Second Amendment with campaign information. The article notes the Democrats' request came a week after the National Rifle Association endorsed Gov. Ted Strickland over Republican challenger John Kasich. But Bringman claims the Democratic Party's request had nothing to do with the NRA endorsement.

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, thanks to a poison pill inserted by then-Gov. Bob Taft (R) to in a last-ditch attempt to kill the original concealed carry legislation in late 2003, law provides an exception so that members of the media can see the confidential records.

When the law was first passed in 2004, several media outlets, including the Plain Dealer, took it upon themselves to obtain the lists and publish the confidential information. As a result, the law was modified in late 2007.

Under current state law, the media access loophole still exists, but journalists may only "view" the record, and specifically may not "copy" the record.

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

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