July 16, 2004
Elyria Chronicle Telegram

Get your gun permits
Nearly 500 Lorain County residents have signed up for concealed carry permits

by Cindy Leise

ELYRIA — They walk among us and we don’t have a clue.

The gun might be in a pocket, a purse or a holster.

Thomas Bowen, a retired Elyria police captain, has a couple of holsters, but he usually just tucks his gun into his pocket during the summer months.

“You can carry a gun and nobody will even know it,” he said.

Bowen, 58, who owns an apartment complex on Middle Avenue, said he rarely feels the need to carry his gun, but there are times he feels more comfortable with it.

The same goes for Lorain City Councilman Gabriel “David” Wargo, 69, and his wife, Bernice, 66.

A gun “gives you control over what may or may not happen,” David Wargo said.

“If I go down, I’m going to go down fighting,” Bernice Wargo said.

Click on the "Read More..." link below for more.

It’s been about three months since the first concealed carry permit was issued in Ohio. The law allows those with a good record to carry a gun concealed on their person and within plain sight if they are driving. Guns are prohibited from a number of locations such as government buildings, and businesses can post signs prohibiting guns on the premises.

The Lorain County Sheriff ’s Department, which has issued about 800 permits, reports few problems with the concealed carry law. Five permits have been denied because of background checks that showed felonies or violent misdemeanors such as assault. One applicant who failed to get a permit had “a pretty significant theft charge” in his background, according to Sheriff ’s Capt. James Drozdowski. Another permit was suspended after a temporary protection order was issued against the permit-holder, Drozdowski said.

In Lorain County, the only real problem seems to be that the records room is a little too busy processing the permits. Drozdowski said they’re averaging 20 per day.

The state’s concealed carry law requires that applications be processed within 45 days, and there have been a few times Lorain County has exceeded that time frame by a few days because of delays in background checks, Drozdowski said.

The department kept those individuals informed and they didn’t seem to mind too much, he said.

Several weeks ago, Lorain County cut back on the hours when concealed carry applications are accepted. The new hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

A steady stream of people still makes its way to the Sheriff ’s Department to pick up licenses.

Former Army Ranger David Rodgers said he thought Ohio’s required 12-hour training class was “a good refresher,” even for those people like him who are very familiar with firearms.

“You may forget some of the finer points,” said Rodgers, 52, of Cuyahoga County.

Rodgers said women were among the most attentive in his training class.

“They pay attention — they want to learn right the first time,” he said.

The law allows people to apply in their own counties or adjoining counties, and a lot of the Lorain County licenses are being issued to residents of Cuyahoga County. Cuyahoga County Sheriff Gerald McFaul only began accepting applications after a gun activist sued him. Cuyahoga County only accepts about a dozen applications per day, a clerk said.

Of the 790 permits issued in Lorain County, 290 were to people from Cuyahoga County. Ten were issued to Medina County residents, three were issued to residents of Huron and Ashland counties and two were issued to residents of Erie County.

In Cuyahoga County, just one of dozens of permit holders is from Lorain County.

Only a small fraction of permit holders are women, but a surprising number of couples such as the Wargos have received licenses.

It has been a few decades since a gun saved David Wargo’s wife from possible harm, but it seems like yesterday to David Wargo.

He returned from work at B.F. Goodrich, only to find that some men had broken a window and a door of his home before they were stopped at a second door by Bernice, who was armed.

“They saw she had a gun and took off,” David Wargo recalled.

Wargo said his son, David W., and daughter-in-law, Cynthia, also got permits.

The concealed carry law survived its first test on Wednesday, when the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.

The coalition argued the law bars those who have been institutionalized against their will for mental illness, but there was no database to check those involuntary commitments prior to April 8.

Toby Hoover, the coalition’s executive director, said the high court said the lawsuit should have been filed in a lower court. She said the coalition may continue to question the constitutionality of the law based on the lack of a significant database for those institutionalized against their will.

“The law says it will do something it cannot do,” Hoover said.

Hoover, whose first husband died in a store robbery shooting, said she fears more guns in the public will translate into more shootings. Innocent bystanders or people who might have a problem with permit holders could get shot, she said.

But David Wargo, a former Common Pleas Court bailiff, said it is time that ordinary law-abiding citizens have a chance to defend themselves.

“The permit-holders are the law-abiding citizens,” he said. “The lawbreakers are the ones who make people afraid of guns.”

Inside: Complete list of permit holders. Pages A6-7

The paper took up one and one-half pages publishing the names of an estimated 800 concealed handgun licensees.

The Elyria Chronicle Telegram was one of the first to violate the stated intent of the Taft media exception provision to the protection of private CHL-records. Taft and the Ohio Newspaper Association said it was about providing a check and a balance to ensure the "right" people were obtaining licenses. The Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, along with a handful of others, are clearly abusing this provision.

Rep. James Aslanides (R-Coshocton), the bill's sponsor, said in conference committee and during a short floor speech on January 7, 2004 that he would lead an effort to roll back the media access if the "privilege" is abused.

"If they abuse the privilege, we can cause them to lose the privilege," he declared, pointing out that the Pennsylvania Legislature struck a similar provision after a newspaper published a list of permit holders.

Sen. Steve Austria seconded this warning, adding that publishing the names of license-holders would be the exact kind of abuse they're referrring to, since publishing these names would threaten the safety of the very men and women who have chosen to bear arms for self-defense.

Rep. Aslanides has already expressed interest in modifying the law to correct this abuse. Sen. Austria has not, as far as we are aware, provided public comment in the wake of these newspapers' actions.

Both men are up for re-election this November.

Related Story:
SPITE: Two Ohio newspapers violate privacy of county CHL-holders

Category: Concealed Carry

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