It's not particularly surprising that the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association supports legislation to allow the carrying of concealed weapons in Ohio. The sheriffs, who are elected in each of the 88 counties, obviously recognize a trendy political issue. By and large, they oversee law enforcement in rural and suburban areas, where fewer crimes occur. And, not so incidentally, if CCW were to be adopted, the sheriffs would be responsible for handing out the permits, adding more territory to their fiefdoms.
From a public safety perspective, however, it is difficult to comprehend how a law enforcement organization could responsibly recommend thrusting tens of thousands more handguns into the public domain, as a CCW law undoubtedly would.
Sheriff Dan Beck, of Allen County, argued on The Editors show last weekend that people should be allowed to carry concealed weapons because law enforcement alone can't protect them totally. But realistic citizens in our civilized society recognize that returning to the days of the old frontier, when everyone carried weapons as a matter of course, is unlikely to improve their lives and make them safer.
The sheriffs are alone among major state law enforcement groups in supporting CCW. It is opposed by the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police and the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Yet on the TV program, Sheriff Beck unprofessionally characterized Ohio's big-city police chiefs as “paper shufflers” who are “out of the realm of reality.”
That was a slap at Toledo Chief Mike Navarre, who worries about the added danger to his officers and the public posed by concealed carry. Even individuals considered too unstable to qualify as policemen would be allowed to arm themselves under CCW.
Ohio is among seven states that ban CCW, and a recent statewide poll indicates the people of this state want to keep it that way. The Ohio Poll, released in April by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati, found that 69 percent of Ohioans oppose legislation to make it easier to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons. Polls in 1999 and 1995 found similar results.
Ohio has banned concealed carry, with a few exceptions, since 1972. That law, along with Toledo's 28-year-old ban, would be tossed out if Ohio becomes a CCW state.
One bill, supported by the pro-gun purists led by Rep. Tom Brinkman (R., Cincinnati), would permit concealed carry with virtually no restrictions and no permits; it's modeled after Vermont's anything-goes law. The other, sponsored by Rep. James Aslanides (R., Coschocton), would add some safeguards, including background checks, training, and a list of places that would be off-limits to people with handguns - law enforcement offices, jails, courthouses, schools, and airports.
But what about libraries, the new Mud Hens stadium, churches, day-care centers, supermarkets, theaters, or the Statehouse?
The Aslanides bill is due to be amended to give public and private property owners the right to post signs to exclude concealed weapons, but we believe that would only open the way for deadly shooting incidents to be followed by protracted legal battles over whether a sign was properly posted and whether it had the correct wording.
Discerning Ohioans know that the prevalence of handguns, legal or otherwise, hasn't measurably improved our society. Why would we want to make things worse?
As Toledoan Toby Hoover, director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, said on The Editors, in rebuttal to Sheriff Beck, if more guns equated to safety, America would already be the safest nation in the world.