Your right to an open and transparent government in Ohio will take another hit if a provision added to the Ohio Senate’s budget bill Tuesday is allowed to survive.
The provision would lock up the names of Ohioans who possess permits for carrying concealed weapons and prevent journalists from seeing the records held by county sheriff’s offices, unless they obtain court orders.
Newspapers and other news organizations will continue to do the job that readers, viewers and listeners expect of them — serving as a watchdog over government offices. If the new provision is allowed to stand, taxpayers will be forced to bear the costs of obtaining court orders, and possible litigation, over these records.
A little history: When Ohio lawmakers first passed a concealed-carry law in 2005, newspaper reporters and other journalists had full access to the names of permit holders — a valuable tool for reporting on the law’s utilization, trends and identifying criminal offenders with permits. Proponents of the law were happy just to get it on the books — flawed in their eyes — and then set about changing it slightly each year.
Since then, the law has incrementally been altered to loosen restrictions and to make the names of permit holders less available.
The latest version of the law allows journalists to view conceal-carry records but ridiculously forbids them from taking any notes or requesting copies.
Tuesday’s provision — introduced by Sen. Joe Uecker, a Republican from southwest Ohio — shuts the door completely and blocks access to the records for journalists and thus the public.
Lawmakers in Ohio continue to be in the pocket of the powerful gun lobby and — despite the many problems our state has, most notably the financing of public schools — always have time to tinker with the conceal-carry law, to make it more to the gun lobby’s liking.
The Ohio Newspaper Association and other newspapers around the state, including The Gazette, believe this provision should be stripped out of the budget bill. In fact, state lawmakers should be going in the opposite direction — and reversing the restrictions they have placed on journalists viewing the names of permit holders.