|News Media Update||OHIO||Freedom of Information|
Conceal and carry permit records partially hidden
- Ohio’s new conceal and carry gun law allows journalists to access records chronicling who applies for a permit, but closes the information to the general public.
Jan. 20, 2004 — Ohio residents can now carry concealed weapons, but only journalists can know which residents have sought that right.
On Jan. 8, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft signed into law a concealed weapons bill that includes an open records provision that is limited to journalists and excludes public access. Taft previously opposed the conceal and carry legislation because of the state House and Senate’s failure to address public records provisions.
The bill passed the Senate 25-8 and the House 69-27 on Dec. 10. But Taft, a Republican and the great-grandson of former U.S. President William Howard Taft, said he would veto the legislation because it only gave journalists — and not the general public — access to the identities of permit holders, and only on a “name-by-name” basis, according to a Jan. 9 story in the Dayton Daily News.
The final version of the bill still shields the records from the public, but it allows journalists to access countywide lists of permit holders kept by the various sheriff’s departments. The records will include the county of residence, date of birth and the name of everyone issued a permit, but not their home address.
Those who seek a permit will have to pay a fee to the government, undergo background checks and receive training in how to use the weapon.
State Rep. James Aslanides (R-Coshocton), who sponsored the bill, said the purpose of concealing a weapon is to prevent people from knowing one is armed.
“Concealed weapons mean concealed identity,” Aslanides said according to a November story in the Ohio Newspaper Association’s newsletter. “You can’t publicly put names of people in the paper who have permits to carry.”
Following the passage of the bill, Aslanides warned reporters that if they abuse their access to the lists of permit owners, he will change the law and close off all the records.
Frank Deaner, executive director of the state newspaper association, said he was “disturbed” by Aslanides’ threats.
“His remarks get very close to the fine line between journalists’ responsibilities and censorship,” Deaner told the Gallipolis Daily Tribune. “That’s not for Jim Aslanides to decide”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper, reported that “it is this newspaper’s intention to obtain this information and publish it. Our readers deserve to know the identities of those who obtain permits, to carry their guns in public. We hope other news organizations will do the same in their communities.”
The concealed weapons law takes effect April 9.
© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press