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Sunday, June 22, 2003

Permit legislation puts safety at risk



By Toby Hoover
Guest columnist

Ohio legislators are in the final stages of trying to pass a law that will allow the Carrying of Concealed Weapons (CCW). Hidden loaded guns in public are a threat to public safety and bad public policy. How many of our children, family and friends are Ohio legislators willing to put at risk for the gun lobby's single-minded campaign to arm every man, woman, and child in the United States?

The Ohio General Assembly should make important decisions about public safety instead of cowering under the influence of a special interest group. This past week the National Rifle Association (NRA) used its clout by shutting down the legislative process at the statehouse. The Ohio Senate refused to address their newly crafted concealed weapons bill on Tuesday and Wednesday until the NRA gave their approval to vote on the bill.

Clearly the extremist agenda of the NRA has the ear of Ohio representatives and senators. Gov. Bob Taft should veto any legislation that allows concealed weapons to be carried in Ohio.

The governor has claimed since 1999 "the reason we would pass this law was to enhance public safety" and that he would veto a bill that was not supported by law enforcement. The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police have never supported, sponsored, or encouraged carrying hidden loaded guns.

The majority of Ohioans oppose carrying concealed guns. According to a 2001 Ohio Poll by the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research, 69 percent of Ohio opposed such legislation. But state legislators have put politics above common sense and ignored the wishes of their constituents.

This legislation includes a preemption clause that overrides all local law prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons. This means that any city ordinances banning the carrying of concealed weapons would be void. Carrying loaded weapons in downtown Cincinnati is quite different than in Urbana or Marion. For legislators who hate "big government," preemption is an inconsistent position.

Concealed carry legislation would allow guns to be carried into private businesses unless the business posts a sign prohibiting it, but there is no provision to notify private business of their right to prohibit or any guidelines for how to enforce the prohibition.

Ohio sheriffs will issue the licenses. They will not have discretion to deny permits to those they may know are a risk to themselves or the community.

Mentally unstable persons who have not been formally committed or adjudicated mentally ill by a court will be able to obtain a permit to carry a firearm in public.

Any legislator or governor who votes yes to this increased risk to our safety will have to take responsibility for the change in how we live and play in Ohio. They will give carrying guns their stamp of approval, make it socially acceptable, and give our children the message that we should be packing a gun against our neighbors, co-workers and community.

The majority of Ohioans oppose secretly carrying hidden loaded guns in public. Ohio lawmakers and Gov. Taft should represent us.

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Toby Hoover is executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence (www.ocagv.org) .




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