Business groups lament expanded Ohio gun laws

A bill that would allow concealed-carry permit holders to bring guns to work and keep them in their cars in spite of their employers’ objections is a prime example of government overreach and essentially usurps an employer’s right to exercise its own discretion.

That’s according to Chris Kershner, vice president of economic development for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, which is among a number of business groups across the state that have expressed concerns about legislation expanding the state’s concealed-weapons law.

Under the bill — which was approved by both houses of the Statehouse early Friday morning — employers would be prohibited from firing, refusing to hire or otherwise discriminating against someone who has a concealed-carry permit and keeps a gun in a vehicle parked on the employer’s property.

However, the law would still permit such institutions as colleges and day care centers to bans guns, and it would keep a ban on concealed weapons in government buildings, unless an agency decides to allow them.

“I am pleased the state legislature has decided to leave the decision about safety in our buildings to local elected leadership,” said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

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Still, Kershner lamented what he perceives as a double-standard.

“It would be nice if an employer would be able to have the same discretion as the city or a university board to be able to decide if they want to allow or not to allow that on their own private property,” Kershner said. “Those rights really should be available to employers, as well.”

Kershner was quick to point out that until Gov. John Kasich signs the bill into law, most workers are still subject to discipline by their employer for violating company weapons policies.

Under pressure from business groups, lawmakers dropped a separate proposal that would have listed people with concealed-weapons permits as a protected class under Ohio employment discrimination laws.

Such a law would have protected Springfield resident Henry Frazier, a concealed-carry permit holder who said he was recently terminated from his job at the Honda of America manufacturing plant in Marysville after acknowledging to his employer that he kept a handgun locked in his car in the company parking lot.

After meeting with Honda human resources officers on Oct. 17, Frazier said security guards escorted him to his car, removed and unloaded his weapon before returning it to him after he had driven off plant property.

“A week later, HR called me…and said that I had been seperated from Honda of America after 25 years. I was an exceeds-expectations associate every day. Perfect attendance. Did a great job. I just don’t understand it,” Frazier said.

Kershner said he fully supports an individual’s right to legally own and carry a gun for protection, but he said business owners should also have the right to establish the policies they think best serve all of their workers.

“The government can overstep a little bit when they start trying to govern the operations of a privately held business that operates on privately owned property,” he said. “In my opinion, it infringes on employers’ rights.”

The concealed-weapons bill was among a flurry of new measures lawmakers signed off on Friday at the end of their two-year legislative session, including separate abortion bans, and a bill making Ohio’s clean-energy mandates optional for three years.

A new Legislature takes office next month. Republican Gov. John Kasich has 10 days from the time he receives the bills to sign or veto them.

Kasich has not said whether he’ll sign the two abortion bans approved by lawmakers in the GOP-controlled House and Senate, including a measure prohibiting abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected that would be among the strictest in the country. Kasich has previously questioned that measure’s constitutionality.

Lawmakers also approved a ban on abortion after 20 weeks, a measure on the books in 17 other states, with Arizona and Idaho’s laws on hold because of court action.

“These bans are a deliberate attempt to make abortion illegal in the state of Ohio,” said Iris Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio. “If signed into law, these bills would force women to travel long distances and cross state lines to access abortion.”

The leader of Ohio Right to Life, which opposes abortion, called the 20-week ban “a momentous step” toward overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1974 Roe v. Wade decision.

“When enacted, this legislation will immediately begin saving hundreds of babies throughout Ohio, and be a part of a national movement that will save thousands of lives,” said Mike Gonidakis, the group’s president.

Among other legislation headed to the governor:

— Making compliance with the state’s renewable-energy mandates optional for the next three years, which clean-energy companies and environmental groups call a de-facto freeze.

— Prohibiting local municipalities from setting minimum-wage levels above the state bar of $8.10 an hour.

— Making it more difficult for authorities to seize assets like cash or vehicles if the owners aren’t involved in criminal activity.

— Addressing Ohio’s addictions epidemic by requiring thousands of pharmacy technicians to be registered by the state and expanding the use of the anti-overdose drug naloxone, sold as Narcan, to schools, homeless shelters, halfway houses and treatment centers.

— Providing more benefits for firefighters who get cancer as a presumed result of their work.

The expanded concealed-weapons bill still permits places like day cares and colleges to ban guns if they want. It would keep a ban on concealed weapons in government buildings unless an agency decides to allow them.

Under pressure from business groups, lawmakers dropped a separate proposal that would have listed people with concealed-weapons permits as a protected class under Ohio employment discrimination laws.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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