Ohio lawmakers consider to make major changes to gun laws

Would impact having guns in cars, at the statehouse and no longer require retreating from a threat before using a gun.

Gun-rights supporters are pushing for the right to carry concealed weapons in more places in Ohio, eliminate the requirement that people tell cops who stop them that they have a firearm and no longer require someone to retreat from a threat before using a gun.

Eight gun bills pending in the Ohio General Assembly seek to expand gun rights.

Nearly 40 lawmakers are signed on as sponsors of a “stand your ground” bill that would remove the duty to retreat from a threat. House Bill 228 would re-work Ohio’s self-defense laws and reduce requirements faced by CCW holders, such as keeping their hands in plain sight during traffic stops.

“This would be a huge threat to public safety and peace of mind, particularly for men of color who are often impacted by these kinds of stand your ground laws,” said Jennifer Thorne, executive director of Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. Thorne argues that a stand your ground law would embolden people to embark on vigilante justice and shoot first, ask questions later.

Meanwhile, President of Buckeye Firearms Association Jim Irvine bristles at calling it “stand your ground” legislation. “Some people may call it that. It’s an inappropriate label,” he said.

Ohioans have the right to fight a threat in their home or car but elsewhere they face a legal duty to retreat, if possible. Irvine said the vast majority of people won’t use deadly force. “It goes against our grain and against who we are.”

CCW permit changes

Lawmakers are considering bills that would let active and retired military members obtain CCW permits without taking the eight hour training class, let paramedics and EMTs assigned to SWAT teams carry firearms on the job and reduce the penalty for carrying a concealed weapon into areas that are posted as “no gun” zones from a felony to a misdemeanor.

There is also a bill pending in the Senate that would allow CCW permit holders to carry guns in the Ohio Statehouse, which is heavily guarded by the Ohio Highway Patrol.

A hearing this past week on House Bill 142 packed a Statehouse room with representatives from law enforcement, the National Rifle Association and the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. The bill seeks to eliminate the requirement that CCW permit holders promptly disclose if they have a gun when they’re stopped by police.

Ohio Fraternal Order of Police lobbyist Mike Weinman, who is in a wheelchair, testified that the notification requirement is important for officer safety. Weinman was shot and paralyzed while on duty as a Columbus police officer.

All the requirements of CCW permit holders could be moot if House Bill 201 passes. It would eliminate the CCW permit requirement. Adults 21 and older would be allowed to carry hidden guns, without going through training or background checks. (Those barred by federal law, such as felons, would not be allowed.)

State Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Cincinnati, has been pushing for a bill to let adults carry concealed weapons without a permit for more than 15 years. He doesn’t hold out too much hope that the bill will pass this time around either.

“There is always a chance. It’d be one of those things that happens in lame duck,” Brinkman said, referring to the weeks between an election and the end of the legislative session.

In past legislative sessions, gun issues have been attached to other bills or merged. That might happen this time around too.

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, said “We have a lot of bills out there. Some of them we may ultimately want to maybe merge into one bill, later down the road.”

Over the years, anti-gun violence activists have managed to defeat the no-permit concealed carry program and stand your ground laws in Ohio, Thorne said. “I think the (bills advancing) stand your ground and permit-less are both very concerning but you really have to keep an eye on all of them because eventually, one of them will become a Christmas tree.”

Bills sponsored by Democrats that seek to curb gun rights — such as requiring safe storage to keep guns out of the hands of minors or increasing background checks — are pending but not expected to pass.

Look at pending gun bills in Ohio

Ohio lawmakers are considering several bills governing firearms. Here is a look:

House Bill 79. Paramedics and others assigned to SWAT teams would be trained and permitted to carry firearms while on duty and be allowed to carry concealed weapons.

House Bill 142. When stopped by law enforcement, concealed weapons permit holders would not be required to tell the officer that they're carrying a firearm. Introduced March 21, its sole sponsor is state Rep. Scott Wiggam, R-Wooster.

House Bill 201. The aim is to wipe out Ohio's carry concealed weapons permit program and allow any adult age 21 or older to carry hidden firearms, as long as they aren't barred from doing so under federal law. It would eliminate the requirement that people carrying weapons disclose that when they're stopped by law enforcement. Police would not be allowed to search, seize or detain someone – no matter how temporary – based only on the fact they're carrying a firearm. Introduced May 3, it has 24 co-sponsors. .

House Bill 228. Ohioans would no longer have a duty to retreat when threatened – essentially permitting them to "Stand Your Ground." Also, the prosecution would have the burden of disproving a self-defense claim – current law puts that burden on the person making it. The bill would eliminate the requirement that CCW permit holders keep their hands in plain sight during traffic stops and the requirement that property owners post 'no guns' signs. Introduced May 16, it has 37 co-sponsors, including many from the Miami Valley.

House Bill 233. The penalty for a CCW permit holder carrying a weapon in a prohibited area, such as a government building or place of worship, would be reduced to a misdemeanor – and only if the person refused to leave when asked to do so. Currently, it is a felony. Introduced May 18, it has 51 co-sponsors, including many from the Miami Valley.

Senate Bill 81. Active members of the armed forces and veterans would be allowed to get CCW permits without paying fees or going through training.

Senate Bill 122. This would allow people to carry concealed weapons in the Ohio Statehouse and its grounds.

Sources: Ohio Legislative Service Commission, Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, Ohioans for Concealed Carry

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