Editorial from The Cincinnati Enquirer If you’re an Ohio concealed carry permit holder, your permit records are already confidential – protected like they are national secrets. They’re even safe from journalists, who are allowed to view the permits but not copy them or take any notes.
But under a recent amendment proposed for the Senate version of Ohio House Bill 64, journalists wouldn’t even be allowed to review the permits. Some Ohio lawmakers want to remove this last shred of accountability for sheriff departments, which hold the records, by shielding them entirely from view. That’s a mistake.
With access to gun permit records, journalists around the country have helped keep you, your friends and neighbors safe by revealing permit mistakes and oversights. The New York Times found in 2011 that 5,000 North Carolina permit-holders had been arrested in the last five years for felonies and misdemeanors, excluding traffic crimes. The South Florida Sun Sentinel found in 2007 that Florida had issued 1,400 concealed carry permits to felons who had pleaded guilty or no contest to their crimes. Hundreds more permit-holders kept their license to carry despite outstanding warrants, domestic violence injunctions and misdemeanor convictions for reckless behavior with firearms. Such mistakes may not be the norm, but we have a right – a need, even – to know when they occur.
The lesson is clear: It’s important to hold government officials accountable for the permit-granting and -review process, and journalists provide an important check on the system on behalf of the public. Journalists in Ohio can’t do the type of wide-scale stories mentioned above because Ohio’s law is so restrictive. It would be far better if lawmakers were looking to loosen the law protecting permits, not totally block access.
Journalists take seriously their unique watchdog role: to strengthen public safety by finding loopholes and errors in the review process for permits. These are goals everyone should support. Lawmakers should reject the amendment that blocks journalists’ access to concealed carry permits. No access means no accountability.