Secret gun files wrong

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Ohio Newspaper Association, joined by the Ohio Association of Broadcasters and the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as news organizations across the state, believe it was wrong for the state legislature to throw the secrecy shroud over another government activity by eliminating the limited access journalists have to ask if someone has a concealed carry permit.

It is why the ONA is urging Gov. John Kasich to use his line-item veto power to restore the current language in the law.

Ohio sharply limits the access of journalists to this information already. Reporters can’t take notes or copy the permits; nor do they see specific street addresses. This prevents media outlets from publishing or posting long lists of permit holders.

Maintaining the current language is consistent with open records laws, which says public records should be open unless there is a compelling reason to close them.

In the case of a shooting, a reporter might ask these questions: Did the shooter have a concealed carry permit? If so, was it proper and legal? And, if it wasn’t issued appropriately, why was the permit not revoked as the law requires? These are the kinds of questions that may no longer be possible to ask under Ohio law.

Should the legislature’s action become law, sheriffs will maintain secret files of permit holders — or revoked permit holders — available only to government officials with no transparency or meaningful outside scrutiny of how the program is functioning.

Supporters of both the First and Second amendments share concerns about excessive government secrecy. Journalists can’t do their jobs without access to information.