Before Ohio’s budget bills get approved, they almost always turn into a grocery list of add-ons that have little to nothing to do with day-to-day government.
The Senate’s budget plan is no exception. Since the House handed over its budget proposal, the Senate has proposed hundreds of changes.
Among them is a provision that would end the ability of journalists to review lists of names of concealed-carry permit holders maintained by sheriffs’ offices.
Current law grants journalists access to the concealed-carry lists, but prohibits them from copying or writing down any information.
Use is rare. Reporters will sometimes use the lists to determine if a person accused of a crime has been issued a permit or if a felon had been improperly approved to carry a gun.
But Sen. Joe Uecker, R-Loveland, wants the exception eliminated. He says the publication of a permit holder’s name can violate their privacy and could compromise their safety.
Uecker, a concealed carry and National Rifle Association instructor and former police officer, failed in getting a similar measure approved in the last Legislature.
If successful this time, concealed carry records would be sealed, with the only access available through a court order.
Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association, said sheriffs should not be allowed to maintain secret databases of permit holders.
Once “government decides to create a record, the law in Ohio couldn’t be clearer that it is an open record unless there is a compelling reason to close it,” Hetzel told The Columbus Dispatch.
Uecker’s proposal stems, in part, from The Sandusky Register’s publication of names and dates of birth of about 2,500 concealed-carry permit holders in 2007. Most Ohio newspapers, including The Courier, have never published lists.
The privacy concerns seemed to be addressed several years ago, when lawmakers amended state law to effectively prevent newspapers from publishing lists of permit holders. Journalists aren’t allowed to bring in writing utensils with them or make copies when they review the lists.
Certainly, both the First and Second Amendments are important, but there needs to be balance. The Uecker proposal tilts the scale too far, and shouldn’t be rushed through on the tail of a budget bill.
Instead, the Senate should pull the add-on, and give it the discussion it deserves.