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Friday, July 25, 2014
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Published: Friday, 6/20/2003

Packing a lot of heat

One needn't rehash all the arguments for and against the carrying of concealed weapons in Ohio to be disturbed by weasel words on the issue emanating from Gov. Bob Taft.

In the manner of Bill Clinton, Mr. Taft has carefully parsed the meaning of the word “support” in announcing that he will sign the latest version of concealed carry legislation before the General Assembly.

For most of the 41/2 years he has been governor, Mr. Taft has walked a semantically fine tightrope, saying he would agree to concealed carry only if the law enforcement community supported the action.

Such a stance might seem reasonable, but it has allowed Mr. Taft to avoid taking sides on one of the most divisive issues before the legislature.

Only one law enforcement faction - the county sheriffs - favors the latest bill, passed by the Senate on Wednesday. Two other groups, chiefs of police and county prosecutors, oppose it. Yet another, the Fraternal Order of Police, representing rank and file cops, is neutral.

In Mr. Taft's view, the determining factor is not a principled stand for or against on his part but a subtle change in position by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which opposed previous versions of the legislation but is - surprise! - neutral on this one.

So, we count one in favor, two against, and two neutral. That hardly constitutes support, even for skillful practitioners of Clintonesque equivocation or fuzzy math.

Moreover, highway patrol leaders, who serve at the pleasure of the governor, have in the past expressed extreme misgivings about the prospect of ordinary citizens toting hidden firearms, especially in motor vehicles. It's one more danger a trooper on patrol would rather not face.

Indeed, new provisions in the bill for dealing with firearms in vehicles are especially troubling and make a bad piece of legislation even worse.

Weapons in vehicles would have to be in a holster in plain sight or locked in the glove compartment or a gun case. Presumably the motorist would be required to inform a law enforcement officer of the gun. But try telling that to the drunk who's been pulled over and doesn't like it.

Imagine the anxiety and potential danger for an officer when a stopped motorist reaches for the vehicle registration and there's a weapon in the glove compartment.

Is packing heat out on the highway a good idea when road rage is just one flip of the “bird” away?

It's tough to tell where the governor personally stands on concealed carry. He has always hung his alleged willingness to sign the legislation on someone else. Now, safely past re-election and into his second term, Mr. Taft has constructed a political device by which he can appear to want to put concealed weapons into the hands of Ohioans - or not.

The bill approved by the Senate has so many self-defeating provisions that even ardent gun proponents have announced their opposition. If it fails as a result, the governor can always claim that he tried.

Given Mr. Taft's historical reluctance to take strong stands on almost any issue, a pledge to approve the latest version of concealed carry is hardly an ideological epiphany. He's trying to have it both ways, a posture that looks more and more like the opening act of a campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Straddling the fence may be good politics, but it still amounts to a disingenuous attempt to glide past a contentious issue that deserves firm and forthright leadership from Ohio's top elected official.

If concealed carry is a bad idea, it's a bad idea all the time, even if this particular legislation doesn't satisfy the gun advocates.



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