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Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 1/18/2004

Ohioans held hostage by the Republicans

Tom Ridge should issue a red alert just for Ohio. We live in a perpetual state of emergency. Columbus is the cause of our distress. We're being held hostage by the Republican leadership. Officials elected to act in the people's best interest are little more than scoundrels in suits who have only special interests at heart. They fiddle like fools while population and jobs steadily leave the Buckeye State for greener pastures.

There's no better proof of public duty abdicated on a grand scale than the recently passed concealed-carry legislation. It replaced a law that had served Ohioans well for 145 years with one that introduces risk to everyday life. Citizens used to be banned from secretly carrying guns in public.

The prohibition was sound, sensible, protective public policy. The public thought so, too. There was never any huge outcry by voters that the concealed weapons ban be lifted.

Frankly, on the list of priorities Main Street is preoccupied with, carrying hidden handguns is a no show. Here's a news bulletin: People are worried about jobs - finding or keeping one. They lose sleep over affording health care and prescriptions with little or no insurance. Those lucky enough to carry coverage seem to pay more for the privilege every Jan. 1. It's about education and the economy, stupid. It's about holding down a couple of minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet. It's about living paycheck to paycheck and accumulating staggering debt. It's about trying to get ahead of the game and falling further behind. But not by any stretch of the imagination is it about packing concealed heat.

Yet when pressed for an opinion on the matter, a healthy majority of Ohioans said they'd never vote for it. Gun ownership is one thing. Concealed weaponry is pushing the envelope. Carrying a handgun in a purse or holstered under a jacket is unnecessary and not in the public welfare. Clear enough?

Ordinarily, a government of, by, and for the people would note the clear public sentiment against carrying hidden guns and quickly table further talk of such risky nonsense. But the tables have a way of turning when the controlling party morphs into something more powerful than public servant. It happens when the fortunate few wielding the gavel reward the fortunate few because they can.

So what could never pass in a balanced forum with vigorous debate sails through a partisan portal to law with muted objection.

Against the will of the people - who are struggling with far more important issues - state lawmakers passed a concealed weapons bill because they could. Not only did they have a lock on the legislature, they had the heft of the National Rifle Association leaning on holdouts to vote in their best interest. Re-election campaigns can be costly.

In the end the only one left to speak for the overwhelming number of Ohioans dead set against carrying hidden guns was Bob Taft. The lame duck governor had the political capital to do the right thing. He hesitated. Said he needed the support of the state's three major law enforcement agencies before signing concealed carry into law.

He got it from the Buckeye Sheriffs Association. The most the Fraternal Order of Police and Ohio Highway Patrol Association could offer was neutrality.

That sounded like support to the inheritor of the Taft dynasty and he buckled. But at the eleventh hour he stalled again. He insisted the general public have access to what is rightfully public information about who applies for a permit to carry a hidden weapon. The Republican-controlled legislature didn't blink. It had the governor's number. Throw him a carrot and he'll cave.

It worked.

With journalists given access to permit-holder records denied to the general public, the governor said he looked forward to signing a law nobody but special interests and a small but aggressive group of gun rights activists wanted.

It's just a matter of time before the fortunate few with friends in high places chip away at the restrictive provisions in the concealed carry law to eliminate irksome elements like public records and background checks.

And they'll get away with it as long as representative government is under attack in Ohio by politicians driv<0x00AD>en to distraction by power and influence peddling.

Please, somebody, some<0x00AD>where, send help.



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