Gov. Ted Strickland supports a secrecy provision in the state's concealed weapons law because he believes Ohioans are better off not knowing who or how many people are licensed to carry hidden guns.
"Knowledge of who possesses a concealed carry permit may put permit holders at risk of theft attempts," according to a reply from Strickland's office to questions about the secrecy provision. "(It) may also put those who are not permit holders in greater danger because criminals could know they are not carrying a weapon to defend themselves."
State Rep. Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island Twp., also supports the secrecy provision, saying there was no compelling reason the government should release the information.
"There is no reason to know who is a concealed carry holder and who is not in this state," Redfern said, adding that the secrecy provision has nothing to do with open government. "These are private citizens who've attended private training, passed background checks and received their permit."
Redfern, also chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said his support of the current law has nothing to do with politics or pressure from the gun lobby. He also said the exemption from the state's public records law was thoroughly reviewed by journalists before it was enacted.
"The Ohio Newspapers Association employs a lobbyist and he weighed in on this issue, making sure the public interest is always protected," Redfern said.
But Frank Deaner, the association's executive director and a lobbyist in the General Assembly, said the association reluctantly did not oppose the public records exemption in the concealed weapon statute because legislators threatened to thwart House Bill 9, a major reform of the state's public records law that had been worked on for two years.
"(State) Senate leaders demanded that provision," Deaner said. "So to save all the good portions of House Bill 9 we compromised on the concealed carry law."
Deaner said House Bill 9 reforms include requiring training for public officials in proper maintenance of records and making them available to the public; the rights of individuals who request public documents; and how attorney fees are paid for individuals forced to press a court case to obtain public documents.
Striking government records from public access is a dangerous trend in the General Assembly, Deaner said, calling it a "slippery slope" and an attack on democracy.
Strickland and Redfern both said they are satisfied with the secrecy provision and do not intend to introduce legislation to repeal it.
State Rep. Matt Barrett, D-Amherst, who also represents residents in a portion of the Register's readership area, said he too has no problems with the secrecy provision.
"We still have an element of it being a public record with newspapers that publish the lists," Barrett said.
All three men referred questions about checks and balances to the permitting process to local sheriff's offices.
Staff reporter Chauncey Alcorn contributed to this story.