Urbana lawmaker wants to nullify federal gun laws in Ohio

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The Springfield News-Sun digs into important stories about public safety, including recent coverage on proposed changes to concealed carry rules.

By the numbers

85,000: Approximate number of new and renewal concealed carry permits issued in Ohio in the first three quarters of 2015

746: New and renewal concealed carry permits issued in Clark County in the first three quarters of 2015

334: New and renewal concealed carry permits issued in Champaign County in the first three quarters of 2015

Source: Ohio Attorney General’s Office

An Urbana lawmaker wants to drum up support for a bill that would nullify federal gun laws, arguing they don’t supersede Ohio’s rules.

State Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana, is seeking co-sponsors for the Ohio Federal Gun Law Nullification Act, which he said would prohibit enforcement of federal gun laws and executive orders relating to all firearms in the state.

The legislation is, in part, a response to the Obama administration’s recent executive actions regarding gun laws, Vitale said. He argued those actions are an example of the federal government overstepping its authority.

Critics said they’re aware of the proposal but believe it has little chance of passing. And legal experts said even if state legislators moved forward with the bill, it won’t hold up in court.

“I don’t know what his motive is but I certainly think he should talk to a lawyer and do a little research because I think it wouldn’t take long to come to the conclusion that the chance of this having a true effect, a lawyer would tell him it’s not going to go anywhere,” said Tom Hagel, a professor of law emeritus at the University of Dayton.

Vitale is a member of the National Rifle Association and a concealed-carry instructor, and argued the U.S. Constitution doesn’t give the federal government the power to determine gun laws in the states.

“The main reason for it is I feel like the federal government is just out of control,” Vitale said. “I think we’re a union of states. We’re not supposed to be a regime controlled by one person or even a small group of people.”

Vitale raised concerns about Obama’s recent executive actions to require some unlicensed gun dealers to get licenses, expand background checks and require Social Security to begin the process for including information about beneficiaries prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons in the background check system.

“One of the big problems with them is it doesn’t really do anything to curb crime in any way,” Vitale said of Obama’s actions.

The Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence is aware of the proposal along with about 20 others related to gun laws in the state, said Jennifer Thorne, executive director for the organization. However, she described Vitale’s proposal as mostly a distraction.

“This bill in particular is a bit of a red herring,” Thorne said. “I don’t really see that it has much chance of moving forward, simply because I don’t think it would really hold up in any sort of legal test.”

The idea that states can act as sovereign nations is an old idea, Hagel said, but its long been proven incorrect in the courts.

“State legislatures don’t have the power to invalidate a federal law,” he said.

Ohio issued more than 110,200 concealed carry licenses in 2014, including more than 58,000 new permits and 52,100 renewals, according to the state attorney general’s annual report. More than 1,000 new or renewal licenses were issued in Clark County and about 800 were issued in Champaign County.

Through the first three quarters of 2015, Ohio saw more than 85,000 new and renewal licenses, including 746 in Clark County and 334 in Champaign County.

Mary Shuman owns Lakeside General Store, 1919 Croft Road, which sells both handguns and hunting rifles. The store located near the C.J. Brown Reservoir began selling guns about six months ago.

Shuman doesn’t believe Vitale’s proposal will pass. An extensive background check, including links to mental health history, should be required of all people who purchase guns, she said.

“Not a lot of people who have mental issues commit crimes that can be brought up,” Shuman said. “I think a mental health link to the background check would be great.”

Businesses who sell guns should also be licensed and receive background checks, including those who sell guns outside of gun shows, Shuman said. She worked for about four months to get a license to sell guns, including background checks.

“It was an extensive process,” she said.

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