Will DeWine sign permitless concealed carrying of handguns in Ohio?

Democrats have called on Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to veto permitless concealed carrying of handguns, but supporters of the legislation that’s now on the governor’s desk called it a historic Second Amendment victory.

DeWine is reviewing the bill, his spokesman said.

A bill to allow permitless concealed carry of handguns, Substitute Senate Bill 215 and also known as “constitutional carry,” passed the General Assembly on March 2 and has headed to DeWine to either sign or veto. It did not pass by a veto-proof majority.

On Friday, DeWine’s press secretary, Dan Tierney, did not answer questions on whether the governor still supported the list of gun reforms he promoted after the August 2019 mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District. Asked what DeWine — whose campaign touts him as a supporter of law enforcement — would say to police groups that opposed SB 215, Tierney was likewise silent.

“I would note Governor DeWine has long supported the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms,” Tierney said.

Bill contents

The current bill, with state Sen. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, as its lead sponsor, says anyone at least 21 years old who is otherwise legally allowed to have a gun can carry a concealed handgun without a permit, without the previously required eight hours of gun safety training, and potentially without a pre-purchase background check.

Those who already have concealed-carry permits would no longer have to carry that license with them.

And if a driver is stopped by police, that person would no longer be required to tell officers that they have a concealed weapon unless they’re specifically asked about it.

Concealed carry licenses will still be available for those who want them, Johnson has said.

Michael Weinman, director of government affairs for the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, testified in legislative committee that the police union opposed the bill as increasing risk to police officers and making their jobs harder.

Democratic opponents of the bill cited similar opposition from the Ohio Mayors Alliance and other groups.

DeWine’s gun history

The deadliest mass shooting in Dayton’s history happened in August 2019, when a gunman killed nine and injured 37 people in the city’s historic Oregon District. At a memorial event, a Dayton crowd chanted “Do something!” at DeWine, leading to his introduction in October 2019 of the “Strong Ohio” bill, which called for a slate of gun reforms: improving gun background checks, expanding 72-hour mental health holds, increasing penalties for crimes committed with firearms, and more.

But that legislation died in the General Assembly. Instead, legislators have passed multiple bills loosening existing gun laws, which DeWine has consistently signed.

Prominent among those was the “stand your ground” bill he signed in January 2021, allowing people to use deadly force in self-defense in public places without considering first whether they could retreat from danger.

At the time, DeWine reiterated his pledge to push for “Strong Ohio” gun provisions, but none of that legislation has gained traction.

Responses left and right

Nan Whaley, ex-mayor of Dayton and now a Democratic candidate for governor, called on DeWine to reject SB 215.

“As a former mayor, I’ve seen firsthand when cities alone have to bear the brunt of keeping our communities safe,” Whaley said in a news release. “This bill isn’t about responsible gun owners, it’s about making sure our communities and our law enforcement are safe. That’s why I’m standing with law enforcement, anti-gun violence groups, and public health researchers and am calling on Governor DeWine to veto this dangerous bill.”

Gun advocacy groups and legislators, including state Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, celebrated the bill’s passage.

“This is a great and historic day for the 2nd Amendment in Ohio,” Antani said in a news release. “I am proud that we passed Senate Bill 215, which will advance Second Amendment rights in Ohio by enacting constitutional carry. I was honored to vote for and co-sponsor the bill.”

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