Ohio House passes 'permitless' carry of concealed handguns

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Nov. 17—COLUMBUS — The Ohio House took a major step toward expanding gun access on Wednesday by doing away with the requirement of the last 17 years that those wanting to legally carry concealed handguns first had to undergo background checks and training to get a permit.

The chamber also voted, again only with Republican votes, to allow school boards to grant permission to teachers and other school employees to carry guns on school property without having to go through the same lengthy training required of armed security officers.

Both bills head to the Senate.

House Bill 227, sponsored by Reps. Tom Brinkman (R., Cincinnati) and Kris Jordan (R., Ostrander), would make Ohio the 22nd state to allow "constitutional carry" or "permitless carry" of concealed handguns. Anyone over the age of 21 legally allowed to own a gun would be able to carry it on themselves or in their vehicles without having to first get a license from a county sheriff and complete eight hours of firearm training.

Ohio law already allows the open carrying of firearms in public.

"Ohio's current system is set up as a privilege, not a right," Mr. Jordan said. "Constitutional carry would simply allow a person who is legally allowed to carry a firearm to do so in a manner of their choosing, often in a discreet fashion ... (The bill) does not change who can legally possess a firearm. Felons, violent criminals, and drug dealers still can't go into a store and purchase a firearm."

The bill would do away with the current requirement that a driver during a traffic stop "promptly" inform a police officer of the presence of a gun in the vehicle. It shifts the burden to the officer to ask.

Those wishing to take advantage of reciprocity agreements with other states to recognize each others' permits would still have the option of obtaining a permit for interstate travel.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 60-32.

"Responsible gun owners and the vast majority of Ohioans see no problem with requiring a license...," said Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D., Cleveland), a no vote. "Passing a background check and spending a few hours with an instructor on a shooting range is not burdensome. It's the bare minimum. Current law is good for gun owners and bad for criminals."

The measure has been opposed by multiple law enforcement organizations that argued it could place their members in greater danger and make it more difficult to identify individuals who probably wouldn't have qualified for permits had they applied or could have had their permits revoked.

County sheriffs issued nearly 99,000 new licenses and renewed about 72,000 in 2020.

The chamber also voted 58-33 for House Bill 99, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Hall (R., Middletown), that responds to an Ohio Supreme Court decision that struck down the authorization of the Madison Local School Board in Butler County for certain school employees to carry concealed guns on school grounds in addition to the school security officer.

The school board took the action after a 14-year-old student brought a gun to the junior-senior high school and injured four students in 2016. Mr. Hall is a graduate of that school, and his father was the school resource officer on duty that day.

The court ruled that the district could not sidestep a requirement in Ohio law that such individuals must complete a potentially lengthy firearms training course.

The bill would instead establish a minimum of 18 hours of training plus two hours on the firing range while allowing school boards to mandate more.

"At the end of the day what we are talking about here is empowering our local schools to make the best decision for their students and educators so that our children feel safe in Ohio schools," Mr. Hall said.

The chamber rejected an amendment by Rep. David Leland (D., Columbus) that would instead have required the Ohio Peace Officers Association to develop a shorter training program specifically for school settings.

"There is nothing local about school safety," he said. "Every child of every community merits our love and protection. It is our responsibility to ensure that we promote the highest level of safety in every Ohio community. Every child in Ohio deserves nothing less than our best."

Again, lawmakers of Gov. Mike DeWine's party approved bills expanding legal access to guns without incorporating any of the reforms he proposed two years ago in the wake of the mass shooting in a downtown Dayton entertainment district.

"The governor supports protecting Second Amendment rights," DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said. "There are multiple bills related to this topic, and it is unclear what final language will be sent to the governor at this time. As such, it is premature to comment definitively on these proposals..."

First Published November 17, 2021, 5:11pm