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Published: Tuesday, 1/13/2004

Legally armed and dangerous

A regional representative of the National Rifle Association could barely contain his elation when Ohio lawmakers passed a concealed carry bill and the governor said he looked forward to signing it into law. "I think it's a great day in Ohio," said a pleased John Hohenwarter.

Not exactly. State Sen. Eric Fingerhut of suburban Cleveland is more to the point. "I think it's a tragic day for Ohio, " lamented the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. "We're going to be less safe."

State politicians managed to foist a huge public policy change on Ohioans knowing it would never have passed a vote of the people. This is representative government?

The only people clamoring for the state to lift its 145-year-old ban on carrying concealed weapons were special interests like the NRA and small but aggressive groups of gun rights advocates. They manufactured the need for Ohioans to carry hidden guns by exploiting the fear factor.

Suddenly Ohio was the Wild West with every man, woman, and child for himself. Only the ability to carry hidden weapons would save the masses from dangerous gunslingers on the prey. How absurd.

A band of rural and suburban lawmakers said their constituents needed to carry hidden guns in their purses, holsters, or locked in the glove compartment for their protection. Since when?

Since gun enthusiasts - who aren't content just to own guns - decided they must be allowed to carry them secretly in public?

Since big campaign contributors like the NRA added muscle to the fabricated public safety issue?

Since Ohio's hapless lawmakers would rather waste time on inane affairs than more pressing matters that a majority of Ohioans would rather see advanced like jobs, health care, and education?

Ohio is losing population and the potential for economic growth, but at least we now can carry a gun. Toledo Police Chief Michael Navarre is right: now his officers have an even riskier job.

Initially Gov. Bob Taft sounded like a leader more concerned with the public interest than caving in to pressure from fellow Republicans and the gun lobbyists.

The governor declared he'd only support concealed carry if the state's three major law enforcement organizations did the same. But only one, the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association, was on board from the beginning.

The Fraternal Order of Police and the Ohio State Highway Patrol were understandably reticent about supporting a policy that will legally arm citizens and motorists. Both organizations remained neutral on the issue. Evidently, in the end, neutrality qualified as support.

Concealed carry in Ohio is an unnecessary and unfortunate development.



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