Taking aim at the public record

State Rep. Chris Redfern told the Register on Friday he just doesn't understand why newspapers have any business knowing which resid
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

State Rep. Chris Redfern told the Register on Friday he just doesn't understand why newspapers have any business knowing which residents have been granted permits to carry concealed weapons.

Gov. Ted Strickland's office said the governor also supports the secrecy that's been written into the state's concealed carry law, calling it a "constitutional right" that should be kept private.

Redfern and Strickland are both missing the point. They are either bending over backwards to please the gun lobby or they are not nearly as bright as they should be.

Both men are advocating for secrecy in government if they continue to support the state's concealed carry law as it is presently written. The law specifically exempts the application process, and names of permit holders from the public record.

Lawmakers have not given any credible reasons why they think permit holders should be treated as a special class of citizens, and why it's in the state's interest to keep the information secret.

Strickland said it was a privacy issue. If Ohioans accept that explanation, what other government information should be kept private? The names of donors to political campaigns? Don't donors have a right to privacy?

Should marriage licenses be private? Divorce records? Land transactions? Salary information for public officials? Don't all of the individuals with government transactions in these areas deserve privacy?

And if privacy is the issue, why did lawmakers make the information available to journalists? They've given no credible reasons why they created a second special class of Ohioans when they decided only journalists would be allowed to know who has a permit to carry a hidden gun.

This is a very slippery slope.

Allowing government to arbitrarily decide what it will make public -- and what it will not make public -- is a dangerous precedent. Redfern and Strickland should be leading the charge to correct the mistake that was written into the concealed-carry law and make this information subject to disclosure just as most publicly generated information is made available to anyone who requests it.

In its present form, the conceal-carry law provides no public checks and balances to assure the gun program is being carried out responsibly. If a sheriff's office accidentally approves a permit for someone unfit to have a gun, the public will never know that because Redfern and a majority of lawmakers have decided the information should be kept secret.

This isn't about a newspaper's right to know, Mr. Redfern.

It's not about privacy, Gov. Strickland

It's about the public's right to know. It's about open government. It's about what is right.

We know you're both too bright not to understand this, and we're very disappointed you don't have the courage to stand up and do the right thing.