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Ohio senators want to prevent journalists from viewing gun-permit records

A law proposed in the Ohio Senate this week would make records of people licensed to carry concealed firearms in Ohio completely off-limits to journalists.

Bill sponsor Ohio Sen. Joe Uecker and Dayton-area Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said they were inspired by a New York newspaper’s recent decision to publish the names and addresses of gun-permit holders in three counties there.

“I don’t think it was proper,” Beagle said. “If the only way to prevent that is through legislation, then that’s legislation I’m interested in supporting.”

The proposed law would remove the exemption that allows journalists to to view, but not take notes or copy, records of gun permit holders, kept by county sheriffs’ offices.

As the law stands, publishing a list of carrying a concealed weapon (CCW) permit holders in Ohio would be impossible, said Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association.

Even so, Beagle questioned why the information is accessible at all.

“I’m not sure there’s any public policy interest in whether or not an individual has a concealed carry license,” he said.

Uecker also cited a June 2011 Hamilton JournalNews story about elected officials in Butler County who held concealed-carry permits. Information was gathered for that story under the existing law.

“People don’t want the public to know who has a concealed-carry license,” Uecker said. “And of course, there is the philosophical notion that some people (question) why it is a public record for something that we believe is a constitutional right in the first place.”

Hetzel said preventing journalists from viewing CCW records would decrease government transparency.

“I wish the pro-gun forces would be as respectful of the First Amendment as they are of the second, and they should be fearful of excessive government secrecy,” Hetzel said.

Gerard Valentino with the Buckeye Firearms Association, speaking for himself and not his organization, said he doesn’t personally have a problem with journalists being able to see CCW information on a limited basis.

“The problem is too many people in the media are anti-gun, and they will use that information negatively,” Valentino said. “And that’s why we have to protect licenses from the media.”

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