Ohio’s new concealed carry law takes effect: What both sides are saying

A new law allowing Ohioans to carry a hidden gun without a concealed-carry permit takes effect Monday, and both backers and opponents of the legislation are standing firm.

“Ohio has always been an open-carry state,” said state Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield. “You could always walk down the street with a firearm on your waist, I have never done that because to be honest, I don’t want somebody knowing I’m armed. I don’t want somebody seeing that they can have access to my firearm by tackling me or something. To me, concealed carry is safer because you don’t know that I have a firearm, and therefore I’m not at risk of you trying to take it from me.”

Concealed-carry permits will still be available, and Koehler said many people will still get them because they want to travel to other states that still don’t allow permitless concealed carry. But he thinks waiving the license requirement here is constitutional.

“I can’t find anything in the constitution that tells me I can require an individual to get fingerprinted, pay a fee, ask for permission from the local sheriff and all the other things that license permit carry requires,” he said “The new constitutional carry gives the individuals the right to do what they they’ve been doing as far as open carry, but now put a coat over it; or for a woman to put it into her purse so she can conceal it while carrying it.”

The new law, which means people who want to carry concealed handguns no longer have to go through the hours of gun safety training required for a permit, drew criticism from some law enforcement groups during its debate.

“We haven’t changed our position,” said Michael Weinman, director of governmental affairs for the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police. “It’s still a bad bill. There’s going to be people without any training, without any background check (carrying guns).”

The FOP has not polled its members on the issue since the bill passed, he said. But Weinman said police had taken many guns off the street by finding them on people who were carrying illegally — something less likely now — and that dropping the requirement for someone carrying a gun to tell police about it reverses 20 years of standard procedure.

“Now we have to ask,” he said.

Officers will be put at risk by the increase in people carrying concealed weapons without any training, Weinman said. In previous years there were “thousands of permits suspended or revoked,” forbidding dangerous people from carrying guns, he said.

“That’s not going to happen anymore,” Weinman said.

Proponents of Senate Bill 215 kept citing the constitutional right to bear arms in support of permitless concealed carry, he said. While the U.S. Constitution does include that, both the Ohio Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court have ruled that right does not automatically extend to carrying a concealed weapon, Weinman said.

What’s in the new law?

Senate Bill 215 has three major provisions:

· A person at least 21 years old who is otherwise legally allowed to have a gun can carry it concealed without a permit. That means someone without a criminal history does not have to apply for a permit at their local sheriff’s office.

· Holders of a current concealed-carry permit no longer have to carry that license with them.

· If stopped by police, a person with a concealed weapon no longer has to tell officers about it unless they’re specifically asked.

Concealed carry licenses are still available for those who want them, but permitless carry waives the eight hours of training on gun handling and safety that accompany a license.

Dean Rieck, executive director of Buckeye Firearm Association, has said other states that moved to constitutional carry saw a decrease in people getting permits, but it’s difficult to predict how much of a decrease Ohio will have. The Buckeye Firearm Association last year tagged passage of permitless concealed carry as its top legislative priority.

Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck said that his office will enforce the law as passed.

“There will still be people who travel to other states or want to have that extra protection of having something that says they went to training and took a class so we will remain open,” Streck previously said.

The sheriff’s office said the local CCW (carrying a concealed weapon) licensing department will remain open.

Koehler said he tried unsuccessfully to add a requirement for federally licensed gun dealers to give first-time handgun buyers a pamphlet that would direct them to the Ohio attorney general’s website. There they would find an electronic version of the handbook that concealed carry license-holders have to learn.

“I think even though individuals no longer have to take a class or training, it is incumbent upon any gun owner to definitely understand the law so they know they are not Barney Fife, they are not a police officer, nobody has deputized them to stop a crime,” Koehler said. “At the same time, if you are going to carry that you better know how to use it to keep your family safe, keep yourself safe, to not make a mistake.”

How we got here

Permitless concealed carry came through the General Assembly as legislators considered, and often approved, a raft of other bills to loosen Ohio gun laws.

“Nothing changes with who’s allowed to carry or where they’re allowed to carry, or any other factors. The only thing that changes is adults over the age of 21 no longer have to pay a fee for the concealed carry licenses if they choose not to,” said Joe Eaton, regional contact for the Buckeye Firearm Association.

The idea failed in the previous legislative session, but in March 2021 state Reps. Thomas Brinkman, R-Mt. Lookout, and Kris Jordan, R-Ostrander, filed House Bill 227. This time around it gained a companion, Senate Bill 215, filed in August by Sen. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott.

House Bill 227 passed the full House in November by a 60-32 vote. The Senate passed SB 215 by a 23-8 vote in December.

At the start of 2022, several local legislators and legislative leaders said securing final passage of permitless concealed carry was among their top priorities. The House bill did not move further, but the Senate version did.

Senate Bill 215 passed the House 58-36 on March 2, and the Senate concurred with minor House amendments 24-9 the same day.

Democrats, including former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley – the party’s nominee for governor – called on Gov. Mike DeWine to veto the bill. So did Dion Green, a survivor of the August 2019 mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District; Green’s father, Derek Fudge of Springfield was shot and killed in that incident.

DeWine signed it into law March 14, meaning it would go into effect 90 days later. His office declined additional comment on it this week.

Rival perceptions

Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims said the new law will make Dayton and the state less safe.

“It’s going to make it more difficult for our police, it’s going to make it more difficult for the average everyday citizen to feel comfortable when we go to different places,” Mims said.

Mims accused Republican elected officials of being led by the National Rifle Association instead of by constituents and called the new CCW law irresponsible. He said DeWine heard the calls to “do something” from people in Dayton’s Oregon District following the August 2019 mass shooting there, but that DeWine has done the opposite of what was asked. Mims said the permitless concealed carry law and the impending law allowing school districts to arm teachers after 24 hours of training are steps backwards.

Mims said he is concerned minor disagreements will turn into shootings and innocent people will get hurt if more people without training carry guns. While residents have the right to have a gun, it’s also important to take responsibility and get proper training, he said.

“We have a lot of rights but we have controls,” Mims said. “We have the right to drive a car but we have a responsibility to stop at a red light, we have the responsibility to drive within the speed limit.

“It just creates a situation where we’re just not as safe as I would like for us to be in the United States, this city or in the state of Ohio. I am very upset with the lack of leadership on the part of our state and federal legislatures.”

Koehler dismisses the assertion that permitless concealed carry will embolden criminals. He argues that criminals will break the law anyway, so requiring a license would not deter them.

“In Springfield already this year we’ve had 500 shots fired reports for the Springfield Police in five months,” Koehler said. “It’s not the constitutional carry folks, it’s not the conceal carry folks that are doing this, it’s the criminals on the street that are shooting at each other that is causing the issue.”

Advocates for gun control opposed the bill and warn it will cause more problems.

“Frankly it makes us less safe,” said Susie Lane, a volunteer for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and a first-grade teacher who lives in Middletown. “I mean CCW people who go through are mostly people who don’t mind having a background check, because that’s part of the process. And there are people who are conscious enough to want the training that comes with it so they know how to handle their guns safely.”

Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland, a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said he doesn’t think long guns used for hunting are a problem, but handguns are.

“People die every day because of them, and the fewer of them we have, the better,” he said.

“I think anything that puts more guns into the hands of people or doesn’t try to regulate them is a problem,” Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said. “We have too many guns out there, too many guns that are being used and people are dying. I am not in favor of anything that encourages people to have guns.

“Even if people aren’t trying to do something wrong they may not know how to use the equipment. Springfield is better off with police officers with guns and the rest of us without them - especially handguns.”

Most discussion of permitless concealed carry died down after it passed three months ago, according to state Rep. Scott Lipps, R-Franklin.

“I have not heard an actual word about that bill,” he said.

Three weeks ago a constituent asked him a few questions about the bill, but said they held a concealed carry license and would still take the training required for that, Lipps said. He has had no discussions with local law enforcement on the issue.

“I think Warren County’s comfortable with the law,” Lipps said. “We’re a heavy state for concealed carry, so that’s really not astonishing news.”

He has had a few calls about House Bill 99, which would allow school staff to carry guns with as little as 24 hours of training. That bill, introduced in February 2021, passed the House in November but sat in a Senate committee until the May 24 mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 elementary school students and two teachers died. Senators then rushed it through, and Gov. Mike DeWine said he looks forward to signing it into law.

Lipps said most of the calls he’s received have been favorable. Schools in larger cities probably would not opt to allow staff to carry guns, but several schools in his Warren County district – which is largely still rural – are likely to, he said.

Who’s eligible for conceal carry starting Monday?

Someone who:

1. Is aged 21 or older

2. Has no conviction for or has no pending prosecution for any felony, any domestic violence, any drug offense (other than a minor misdemeanor), or negligent assault, or falsification of concealed handgun license

3. Has no conviction for (including attempted) or pending misdemeanor offense within the past three years of violence, which are the following offenses: Assault, Aggravated Menacing, Menacing by Stalking, Menacing, Arson, Inciting Violence, Riot, Inducing Panic, Endangering Children, Intimidation of attorney, victim, or witness to criminal case, or Escape

4. Has no conviction within the past five years for two or more charges of either Assault or Negligent Assault, or attempted Assault or attempted Negligent Assault

5. Has no conviction for Resisting Arrest in the past 10 years

6. Has no pending (from any state) Civil Protection Order or Temporary Protection Order

7. Is not a fugitive, including suspected of or convicted of a crime, aware of being sought by the police, and eluding capture

8. Has not been adjudicated as a mental defective or mental incompetence, committed to mental institution, found by court to be mentally ill person subject to court order, or involuntary patient other than for purpose of observation

9. Does not have a suspended CCW license

10. Is not dishonorably discharged from U.S. Armed Forces

11. Is not drug dependent or in danger of drug dependence, or chronic alcoholic

12. Has not renounced U.S. Citizenship; is legally or lawfully in the U.S. if not a U.S. citizen; is admitted under nonimmigrant visa and was admitted for lawful hunting or sporting purposes, or has hunting license/permit, or as official representative of a foreign government.

Source: Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office

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