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Published: Wednesday, 3/2/2005

45,497 get licenses to conceal handguns

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - Ohio sheriffs last year approved 45,497 licenses allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns and revoked a tiny percentage of them because permit holders ran afoul of the law, the state attorney general's office said yesterday.

In the first report since the concealed-carry law took effect on April 8, 2004, Attorney General Jim Petro said the measure had a "smooth rollout.''

County sheriffs said they denied 436 applications because residents failed to meet the requirements. Permits are barred to those who have been involuntarily hospitalized with mental illness, felons, and those convicted of some misdemeanors, including assault on a law enforcement officer.

Of Ohio's 88 counties, Lucas ranked 13th in the number of licenses issued, with 882.

"I have not heard of or experienced any problems in any way, shape, or form," said Sgt. Eric Stearns of the Lucas County Sheriff's Office.

The county with the most licenses issued last year was Clermont, east of Cincinnati, with 2,285.

Figures supplied by county sheriffs to the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission showed that 78 licenses were suspended because a permit-holder had been arrested, charged with certain crimes, or was the subject of a protection order.

Of that total, 42 licenses were revoked, but the number is somewhat skewed because counties also reported permit holders who died under that category. The report didn't break out the reasons for licenses being revoked.

Defiance County issued 127 licenses last year and denied two applications.

Sheriff David Westrick said the claims on both extremes of the decade-long debate in the legislature have not come true since the law took effect.

Mr. Westrick, who said he knows the "vast majority'' of the 127 permit-holders in the 40,000-population county, described them as supporters of the constitutional right to bear arms. "We have not had one incident with one of those folks," he said.

Chad Baus, northwest Ohio coordinator for Ohioans for Concealed Carry, said the small fraction - 0.09 percent - who had their licenses revoked shows that the law is working properly.

"It's a vindication against those who claimed we would have severe problems and people could not be trusted for that right of self-defense," Mr. Baus said.

None of the top three counties with the highest populations, Franklin, Hamilton, and Cuyahoga, are in the top six for counties issuing conceal carry licenses.

That's because unlike counties such as Lucas - where residents can walk in during business hours to apply - those sheriffs require appointments to be arranged, Mr. Baus said.

But five of the top six counties for issuing licenses are adjacent to Franklin, Hamilton, and Cuyahoga counties. Ohioans can get a permit in their county or an adjacent one.

"It's capitalism at its best. If a sheriff is not serving their constituents well, those constituents can go where they are better served," Mr. Baus said.

Toby Hoover, executive director of the Toledo-based Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, noted that Mr. Petro had predicted there would be 100,000 concealed-carry licenses issued in the first six months.

The 45,497 regular licenses issued over eight months in 2004 shows that legislators were "not representing the majority of our constituents," said Ms. Hoover. Ohio has 7.5 million residents who are 21 and over.

"You cannot conclude they made anything worse or better. It is just too small a number," she said.

Contact James Drew at:

jdrew@theblade.com or

614-221-0496.



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