Friday, November 21, 2003

Taft threatens to veto bill allowing concealed guns

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Gov. Bob Taft is threatening to veto legislation that would allow people to carry hidden guns unless it requires the state to disclose the names of those who are issued permits.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders dated Tuesday, Taft said people have the right to know whether their friends, enemies or neighbors have a license to carry a concealed weapon.

"It's also important for the public and, on behalf of the public, the news media to have access to basic information about the permit process itself," Taft wrote, "information to determine, for example, how many permits get issued and where they are issued."

The governor's veto threat comes as legislators try to resolve differences between House- and Senate-passed versions of the bill. Both versions call for exempting permit information from public scrutiny.

The Legislature has been unable to pass a concealed weapons bills for the past eight years.

Taft asked lawmakers to: require a licensee's name, date of birth and county of residence to be public; and shield from disclosure information about an applicant's mental competency, drug abuse or alcoholism.

House Speaker Larry Householder dismissed Taft's request.

"The whole idea of concealed carry is criminals don't know if you're armed," Householder spokesman Dwight Crum said.

Taft spokesman Orest Holubec said the governor grew concerned about the disclosure provisions after newspapers began calling attention to them.

Holubec said last week that the governor expressed concern about the privacy requirement, but he had stopped short of saying Taft would veto the bill.

In Florida and other states, newspapers have exposed flaws in gun-permitting laws by showing that felons and people confined to mental hospitals were accidentally issued permits.

Recently enacted gun laws, including ones in Colorado, Missouri, Minnesota and New Mexico, bar the public identification of permit holders. Gun-rights activists are attempting to close permit records in some states.

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