Law requires names of applicants to be given to journalists
ELYRIA — County Sheriff Phil Stammitti sued Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann on Wednesday, asking a county judge to declare unconstitutional a 2004 state law that requires Stammitti to provide the names of those who apply for concealed carry permits to journalists.
The lawsuit also asks the court to determine whether Ohioans for Concealed Carry President Jeff Garvas, who also is named in the suit, is a journalist.
Stammitti wants county Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi, who was assigned the case, to decide whether he should be allowed to disclose the names and other information of permit holders to anyone, including journalists.
The law currently allows the release of the names and other information on permit holders only to journalists.
Stammitti’s lawsuit was sparked by a Feb. 26 letter from Garvas that requested the information, arguing that a journalist is anyone who disseminates information to the general public. One of his jobs, Garvas wrote, is to provide news in a quarterly newsletter and on the organization’s Web site.
This isn’t the first time, Garvas said, that he’s has been sued for requesting the information on concealed weapon permit holders from a county sheriff. Sheriffs in Clermont, Erie and Mercer counties already have filed similar suits in an effort to determine whether Garvas is entitled to the information.
Garvas said a Mercer County judge declared he was a journalist. The other two lawsuits haven’t been resolved.
Stammitti contends that he’s being asked to differentiate between journalists and non-journalists when it comes to what information he can release, and that the law violates provisions of the Constitution. Stammitti, the lawsuit says, could face criminal or civil sanctions for making the wrong call when deciding who is a journalist.
County Prosecutor Dennis Will, who sent a letter to Garvas saying he does not believe he qualifies as a journalist, said the law is unclear and needs to be clarified.
“What we need is a definitive answer so it’s clear-cut for the sheriff,” he said.
Garvas said he’s less interested in getting the information than getting the laws changed to prevent anyone from learning the identities of those who have a concealed carry permit.
“I’d rather be told I can’t have it because nobody can have it than get the information I requested,” he said. “How often are you named in a lawsuit you want to lose?”
The law, Garvas said, is vague and unreasonably difficult because on one hand it says journalists can have access to the information, but on the other hand it says sheriffs may not create a list of who has a permit.
Dann’s office had no comment on the lawsuit and Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey also declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit. But Dailey said Strickland opposes allowing anyone — including journalists — to review who has a permit.
“The governor’s a strong supporter of the right to bear arms,” Dailey said.
Stammitti did not return calls seeking comment.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or