What a difference a (Democrat) governor makes

By Chad D. Baus

The silence is deafening.

On April 12, 2007, a spokesperson for Governor Ted Strickland told the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram that the governor "opposes allowing anyone — including journalists — to review who has a [concealed handgun license]."

Given their history of vocal, vehement advocacy on the issue of media access to the private, personal information of concealed handgun license-holders, one would think the Ohio Newspaper Association (ONA) and its members would have begun shreeking at the very utterance of these words from the governor's office.

Instead, they have said....nothing.

There have been no coordinated editorial campaigns condemning Strickland for even suggesting the notion, and no news headlines screaming about the imminent violation of some phantom "right to know".

What a difference being a Democrat makes when it comes to treatment by the Ohio media on a gun issue.

To illustrate the point, lets compare the current silence on the new governor's commendable position to how the media handled a Republican's proposal to close the media access loophole in March 2006.

When Rep. Bill Seitz (R) announced that he would introduce an amendment to HB9, which the media said was needed to strengthen access to public records, to close journalist access to the personal information of Ohioans who have received concealed handgun licenses, the media reaction was swift and coordinated. It was as if water had been poured on the Wicked Witch.

News stories and editorials across the state condemned the proposal. Frank Deaner, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association, said "I don't think this bill is the proper vehicle to open the debate on (open records) for concealed-carry."

Rep. Seitz tabled his proposal in committee when then-governor Bob Taft threatened a veto. But when the bill came the House floor, Rep. Tom Brinkman (R) reintroduced the amendment, and the bill, complete with a provision to close the media access loophole, passed by an overwhelming majority. Media elites went ballistic. The media access loophole was eventually reinserted by the Senate, however, modified in an attempt to prevent journalists from obtaining and reprinting the entire list of CHL-holders, and signed into law. All was well again with the Ohio media chronies.

I make this observation of the stark differences in the media's handling of talk about closing the media access loophole, (depending on who speaks out about it) not in any way to detract from the strong position our new pro-gun governor, Democrat Ted Strickland, has taken on the subject.

In fact, the title of this commentary has a dual meaning. You see, the media access loophole only exists today because of a Republican - former governor Bob Taft.

Taft campaigned as a pro-concealed carry candidate in 1998, but fought proposed legislation every step of the way after taking office. As a final attempt at killing legislation that would reinstate the right to bear arms for self-defense in Ohio, Taft latched on to the public records for CHL-holders issue. Proponents of the concealed carry law called his bluff, accepting the ridiculous language into the bill and sending HB12 to Taft for his signature. As if to punctuate the fallacy of the whole issue, just three months later, Taft ordered the names of former prison inmates removed from the Internet to avoid "stigmatizing" the convicts.

On the eve of passage of the media access loophole provision, Rep. Aslanides (R), the concealed carry bill's original sponsor, said that he would lead an effort to close the Media Access Loophole if the "privilege" was 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 (R) 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.

Since that time, there have been numerous examples of the types of abuse these legislators were warning about. Yet, as was shown with HB9 above, Bob Taft was always there, standing in the way of attempts to prevent further such abuses, apparently unconcerned with the media's efforts to 'stigmatize' thousands of Ohio's law-abiding citizens.

At the time of the April 2006 debate on closing the loophole, I wrote that "law-abiding Ohioans have little chance of closing the Media Access Loophole until they elect a governor who recognizes their right to privacy."

They did just that, only a few short months later.

The Ohio General Assembly should act now to draft legislation to close the media access loophole, and send it to the governor's desk. This time, instead of a veto, there is a signature pen waiting.

Chad Baus is a Member of the Fulton County, OH Republican Central Committee and the Buckeye Firearms Association Northwest Ohio Chair.

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