June 24, 2013
Once again, state Sen. Joseph Uecker wants to close off even limited access to records about who has a permit to carry a concealed handgun. The Loveland Republicanís reintroduction of a bill that unwisely would widen the range of exemptions to Ohioís open records law was sparked by a newspaper in suburban New York that published the locations of gun license holders in its area in the wake of the Newtown shootings.
As a practical matter, the access granted to journalists in Ohio could not result in a similar incident. (The public already is barred.) Reporters may view records on who has a concealed-carry permit, but not make copies or take notes. Creating another secret database would deny the press this narrow watchdog role.
Under the law, felons, the mentally unstable and others are not supposed to be granted permits. In fact, newspaper investigations in other states have uncovered illegally granted concealed-carry permits. If journalists are barred from taking a look, there is no way to know how well county sheriffs are performing their important duties to perform background checks and fingerprinting.
Fears that concealed-carry permit holders are at risk unless records are closed are much overblown, far outweighed by the need to preserve a way to independently check information on who is allowed to carry a loaded handgun in public.
Ohio, unfortunately, is gradually reversing the sound idea behind its open-records law, that in a democracy, the presumption must always be that the public has a right to know what its government is doing. Itís time for that trend to stop.