Gunfight in front of the Long Branch Saloon Dodge City, Kansas,  June 2019

Dodge Photos by Denis Smith

Yes, after nearly two weeks on the road, I’ll admit to being tired and disoriented, maybe even confused. But it’s much more than weariness.

It’s like this. After returning home from a long road trip which featured a stop in Dodge City, you realize that while the Wild West town has been rather tame for a long time,  the entire Buckeye State has been less so.

No, you can’t make things up.

My wife and I visited Dodge last week and were greeted by this sign.

When we unpacked and dealt with the stack of accumulated mail and newspapers that greet you after a 3,700 mile driving trip out west, we were greeted by this headline, which served to confuse us after just getting out of Dodge:

Concealed-carry bill clears panel. 

The headline in the Columbus Dispatch said a lot of things, not only to the paper’s readers but to Republican watchers as well. For with God’s Own Party, it’s always about conceal. And carry.

And, of course, deregulation.

This nugget from the Dispatch story says it all:

The bill, sponsored by Republican Reps. Ron Hood of Ashville and Tom Brinkman of the Cincinnati area, would allow those 21 or older to carry a concealed weapon without a permit or training …

In our weariness from too many miles and too many stops, we tried to let that sentence sink in.

One more time. Legislation pending in the Ohio House will allow gun owners to carry a deadly weapon without regard to any permit or training deemed necessary, education and training that might make an individual at least proficient with a device that is designed to kill.

It appears that the entire state of Ohio might morph into a giant version of the cattle town’s famed Long Branch Saloon if the Hood and Brinkman bill is approved. Some would even say that this breathtaking bill is a clear example of, um, Republican hoodwinking and brinkmanship.

Yes, the same Statehouse crowd that brought you the Ohio Proficiency Tests years ago does not believe in the need for testing proficiency with firearms by people who otherwise will at some point wind up sitting close to you and me, silently and anonymously, in restaurants, theaters, taverns, houses of worship, and maybe even at PTA events.

Oh for the fabled days of Dodge and the Long Branch, when you actually had regulations controlling where you could bear arms. Smithsonian Magazine helps to remind us of our forgotten history of gun laws:

The “Old West” conjures up all sorts of imagery, but broadly, the term is used to evoke life among the crusty prospectors, threadbare gold panners, madams of brothels, and six-shooter-packing cowboys in small frontier towns – such as Tombstone, Deadwood, Dodge City, or Abilene, to name a few. One other thing these cities had in common: strict gun control laws.

Yes, folks. It seems that even in our Wild West past, there were efforts to control guns.

Yep, back in the day. Those damn gov’mint regulations.

Who needs some of those damn red-tape public permits to define what is in the public interest with regard to  the possession of guns?

Maybe some of these same gun rights champions might, after a challenging day, mindlessly walk into daycare centers. After all, we read about children dying in stifling hot cars, left behind by a parent challenged by all of the day’s tasks at hand.

I wonder if some of the conceal and carry crowd complained about having to take the Ohio Proficiency Tests or some other examination as a graduation requirement when they were in school. But that was then.


Proficiency, in the minds of Republicans, is about book larnin,’ if you know what I mean.

That kind of proficiency is used only to punish in the form of a graduation requirement. Compare that to enacting gun proficiency requirements that protect the public. Yeah, the folks like you and me who unknowingly sit in restaurants, theaters, and bars next to people who may be concealing and carrying but not otherwise proficient with what they’re packing.

What the hell. With the potential passage of such an odious bill, how much attention might be given to those pesky signs that show a silhouette of a gun with a red line drawn across it?

In the rush for deregulation, we can’t leave out the folks who create and vote for these laws. If you’re worried about the increase in gun violence and deaths that occur with any expansion of weapons, don’t worry about the members of the Ohio legislature. They have the protection of the Ohio Highway Patrol, who screen visitors for weapons and other contraband when you enter the State Capitol, as we did, shortly before our departure for Dodge in mid-June.

But we also know that the opposite of concealment is disclosure, and that’s where Republicans are also quite consistent in their rush to deregulate not only gun laws but to protect those largely unregulated charter schools. Yes, if you’re exempt from about 150 sections of the Ohio Revised Code, you might say that these schools are mostly unregulated.

If weapons are deserving of concealment and protection under state law, consider the effects Ohio’s charter school laws (or lack thereof) have with the blurring or concealment of information that should otherwise be transparent for “public” charter schools and the proper regulation of the charter industry. Here are some examples:

• There are no minimum educational or professional licensure requirements for charter school administrators. None. “After all, school is about education,” Plunderbund observed more than four years ago. But with no educational and licensure requirements for school heads, maybe charters aren’t really about education.

• Some charter school board members may not be U.S. citizens, or “qualified voters.” State law requires that public school board of education members who wish to stand for elective office be qualified voters and live in the communities they wish to represent. There are no comparable legal requirements for charter board members.

• Charter school management companies are private entities and not subject to full audits and requests for financial information from state regulators as well as the general public. These companies, like those for ECOT which received more than one billion in public funds over its history, including nearly $600 million siphoned from public school districts in a five-year period, pose a hindrance for full financial reviews by the state auditor.

But this is only the short list.

In examining the last twenty-year legislative history, you might be shocked, shocked to learn that if the subject is Ohio charters and how they are protected by Republicans, concealment of information is a by-product of weak or non-existent laws and damn gov’mint regulations.

But there’s another word that is used with conceal.

After all, like conceal and carry proponents, Republicans, by ignoring the need for substantive charter school regulation and reform, have been concealing and carrying charter schools with public funds for the past twenty years – all without providing for full public transparency and accountability. The more we might think about legislation that was designed to protect charter schools, the clearer the connection becomes with gun laws and the Republicans who work overtime to ensure that they help to conceal as well as carry the water for both industries. Indeed,  the lack of requirements for weapons training brings this synergy to the surface.

Yes, proficiency and graduation tests for public school students. But no proficiency tests and training for gun owners that conceal and carry weapons in public places.

Guns. Charter Schools. Deregulation.

It’s now clear that when you think about the Wild, Wild West these days, it’s not about Dodge and the Long Branch anymore. For if it’s about unregulated guns and under-regulated charter schools, you’re talking about Ohio.

Even Dodge had gun regulations. Once upon a time.