The Ohio legislature reversed a plan to allow lawsuits for monetary damages if businesses violate a new law allowing concealed carry permit holders to bring handguns onto other people’s property.

State softens plan to punish employers for not allowing guns on sites

Businesses would no longer face monetary lawsuits. Chamber of Commerce says it is an “employer rights issue,” not a “concealed carry issue.”

On Wednesday, the Ohio legislature reversed a plan to allow lawsuits for monetary damages if businesses violate a new law allowing concealed carry permit holders to bring guns onto other people’s property.

After an outcry from business groups, the provision was changed in the state budget. The budget now goes to Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Last week the Senate added the civil penalty provision for businesses and other property owners, prompting the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and 17 other business groups to send a letter strongly opposing it to Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, and Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville.

The letter said the proposal infringed on private property rights.

Chris Kershner, vice president for public policy and economic development at the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, said after the provision was added that it was an “employer rights issue,” not a “concealed carry issue.”

“Employers should be able to manage the actions in their private business on their private property, period,” Kershner said.

On Tuesday the legislature’s conference committee - which reconciled the House and Senate versions of the budget - added an amendment removing the civil monetary penalties. But plaintiffs can still seek injunctive relief from employers, Kershner said.

“The change still allows the court to place an order on a private business owner. While removing this provision all together would have been ideal, we were pleased to see the language addressing monetary damages removed from the bill,” he said.

Ohio’s newly expanded concealed carry law allows permit holders to bring their handguns and ammunition onto private property regardless of the policies and wishes of the company or property owner. They must keep the guns and ammunition stored in their locked personal vehicle.

Companies can continue to ban guns inside their buildings and law does not cover federal property such as post offices or Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The expanded concealed law was approved over business groups’ objections in December. Proponents said that the change allows people to defend themselves when they are coming to and from work.

Jim Irvine, chairman of the pro-gun Buckeye Firearms Association, said the original law lacked penalties and he supported adding the civil liability as a way to force businesses to comply with the “spirit of the law.”

Other provisions in the December law allow permit holders to bring their guns onto college and university campuses and into government buildings if officials there vote to allow it. Permit holders can also bring their guns into school safety zones and airport terminals.

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