Ohio Newspapers Fail To Connect ALEC To New Efforts To Loosen Firearms Laws

ALECOhio's largest newspapers ignored the influence that gun lobby campaign contributions and the American Legislative Exchange Council may have had in pushing forward a bill that would that would loosen firearms regulations in the state. The proposal, which closely resembles ALEC model legislation, would allow gun owners to bring firearms and loaded clips into the parking lots under the state Capitol and require the recognition of out-of-state conceal carry licenses.  

The Columbus Dispatch described Ohio House Bill 495, which has been pushed forward by an Ohio Senate committee:

House Bill 495 essentially would treat concealed-carry licenses like drivers' licenses -- if you have one in another state, it would be recognized in Ohio.

In addition, the bill would allow people without concealed-carry licenses to now carry loaded ammunition clips in their vehicles, so long as they are stored in a compartment separate from the unloaded gun. It also would allow people to bring their guns to the Statehouse or the Riffe Center parking garages on Capitol Square, as long as the guns remain in their vehicles.

The bill, pushed by the National Rifle Association and other Ohio pro-gun groups, also says that a concealed-carry licensee no longer has to demonstrate competency when renewing the license.

Current Ohio law bars those convicted of misdemeanor offenses of violence and drug offenders from obtaining concealed-carry licenses, and require applicants to demonstrate firearms safety competence. As many other states have no such requirements, residents of those states who would not be eligible to earn a license if they were Ohio residents would gain the ability to legally carry concealed if House Bill 495 were passed into law.

While the Dispatch noted that the gun lobby was pushing the bill, they failed to point out that this 'push' took the form of significant campaign contributions to one of the bill's sponsors, Ohio House Majority Whip John Adams (R), who is “the top recipient of gun industry money in Ohio's current legislature,” according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Public Campaign, a group dedicated to reducing the role of special interest money in politics.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer fared no better in exposing gun lobby money. Its story quoted Senate President Tom Niehaus (R), who is responsible for bringing the bill to the floor, as supporting the bill. But thousands of dollars in political contributions to Niehaus from, among others, the NRA and the Buckeye Firearms Association, were omitted from the Plain Dealer's article. 

Equally egregious is the fact that both publications completely omitted the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a shadowy conservative organization behind the passage in many states of “stand your ground” laws that became infamous in the wake of the shooting death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin earlier this year. House Bill 495 closely resembles ALEC model legislation, the “Concealed Carry True Reciprocity Act,” which states:

A person licensed or permitted to carry a firearm in any state whose laws recognize and give effect in that state to a license or permit issued under the laws of the State of {insert state} shall be authorized to carry a firearm in this state.

Twenty-three co-sponsors of House Bill 495 are or have been members of ALEC, including Adams, who chairs the group's Ohio arm. Two members of the Senate committee who approved the bill on Wednesday are members as well.

What's more, the Dispatch and the Plain Dealer reported that the Senate committee's initial proposal would have prevented Ohio universities from banning guns on campus, but this language was narrowed after concerns from officials at Ohio State University. The papers failed to mention that ALEC and the NRA have teamed up in the past to push for laws allowing firearms on campus, even after mass shootings devastated Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University.