Hundreds of convicted felons in Ohio -- many of them violent -- are getting state licenses to hunt, even though it's illegal for them to have guns, a Channel 3 news investigation found.
The Investigator Tom Meyer did a computer-assisted investigation, cross-checking last year's list of Ohio hunting license recipients with a list of state prisoners who did time in the past 10 years.
Nearly 1,200 felons were issued hunting licenses to go in the woods to shoot deer. Many are violent felons with rap sheets that include attempted murder and rape.
"That's a shocking figure," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources issues hunting licenses to felons because they say there's no Ohio law that prevents a felon from obtaining such a license. Unlike a gun purchase, the state doesn't require a criminal background check.
"It's too big a loophole in the law. It would be very difficult for the local police to be able to enforce that and figure out what's in that guy's head," DeWine said.
Channel 3 News asked convicted auto thief Ron Rodriguez, who did time years ago, to see if he could get a hunting license.
"I'm not allowed to own a firearm," Rodriguez said. The Parma man went online and answered a few questions, but not one about his criminal record.
"Very easy, too easy," said Rodriguez.
In a matter of minutes, Rodriguez completed the application and printed his brand new hunting license after paying a fee of $19.
"Because I'm not allowed to own a gun, because I am a convicted felon, they're giving me a license to use a gun. I don't think that's right," he said.
State representative Bill Patmon, of Cleveland, reacted to Channel 3's findings by drafting legislation that would require a hunting license applicant to specify if he or she has been convicted of a felony or pleaded guilty to one.
If so, that individual would be prohibited from using a gun to hunt. The hunting license would be stamped "firearm restricted."
Only a handful of states, including Maine and Rhode Island, prohibit felons from buying or possessing a hunting license.
Illinois and Massacusetts are among a few other states that mandate hunters show both a hunting license and a firearms license.