New gun policies await Ohio House vote: What the proposed bills would do

Credit: Avery Kreemer

Credit: Avery Kreemer

The Ohio House is poised to vote on a number of bills that have recently made their way to the House floor after a busy November committee, including several contentious bills that would further shape and preserve Ohio’s gun policy.

Most notable of those is the Second Amendment Preservation Act, or House Bill 51, which attempts to preemptively exempt Ohio from federal gun control. The bill forbids Ohio from enforcing any federal taxes or fees imposed on firearms, ammo or accessories; any program tracking firearm or firearm accessory ownership; any rule forbidding possession of firearms; or any law rule ordering confiscation of firearms.

The bill would consider each of these an infringement of the people’s right to keep and bear arms that “must not be recognized by Ohio, must be specifically rejected by Ohio, and must not be enforced by Ohio,” according to a nonpartisan analysis of the bill from the state’s Legislative Service Commission.

The bill, proposed in February by Reps. Mike Loychik, R-Bazetta, and Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland, was approved by the House Government Oversight Committee along party lines earlier this month, ending a contentious committee process that spanned most of the year.

In their testimony outlining the need for such legislation, both sponsors referenced the January decision of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to create a registry of pistol braces, a plastic accessory that allows a person to steady a pistol using their shoulder. The rule has since been blocked by federal courts.

Back in March, former Missouri state Rep. Jered Taylor testified in favor of the bill on behalf of Ohio Gun Owners, an advocacy group based in Beavercreek. Taylor explained that Missouri passed an identical law back in 2021, but he felt there’s a more imminent need for pro-gun states to take preemptive action following the ATF’s decision — a stance that was shared by more than 20 people who submitted testimony in favor of the bill.

“Democrat gun control is no longer rhetoric,” Taylor said to the committee back in March, just a few months before the registration deadline for pistol brace owners. “... A few years ago, it was the bump stock ban, today is the pistol brace ban. What will it be tomorrow?”

Dayton Anti-Racist Network’s Lauren Durnwald testified in opposition to the bill back in May on the grounds that it blocks possible avenues to curtailing mass shootings and gun violence more generally, which she said has “gravely impacted” communities throughout Ohio.

“In 2019 in Dayton’s Oregon District, nine people lost their lives at the hands of a gunman and many others were wounded and traumatized,” Durnwald said. “It is a dishonor to these victims and the countless others across the nation to pass this bill.”

Durnwald was joined in opposition to the bill by Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and over 100 other individuals and organizations who submitted testimony.

The bill now awaits a vote on the House floor but it’s not yet clear when that vote will come. House leadership is scheduled to meet Tuesday to set the agenda for the chamber’s next session on Wednesday at 2 p.m.

Control of concealed carry

Also awaiting a full floor vote is House Bill 272, a clarification of Ohio law that dictates local municipalities’ authority to permit or forbid concealed carry in public buildings.

Under current law, local municipalities have the power to permit licensed concealed carry in public buildings, but Ohio law forbids concealed carry of any kind in any building that houses a courtroom. Bill sponsor and local Rep. Adam Mathews, R-Lebanon, argued that current law doesn’t take into account smaller cities and villages that often use multipurpose city halls that house courtrooms — making concealed carry void by default, even if the municipality should want to permit it.

The Lebanon lawmaker proposed the bill alongside Rep. Scott Pizzuli, R-Scioto County, who called it a “common sense correction.” Pizzuli explained that, in keeping with current law, House Bill 272 would not allow a municipality to authorize concealed carry in designated courthouses, nor would it permit concealed carry in a multipurpose municipal hall when court is in session.

The City of Lebanon, which fought a legal challenge after it moved to allow concealed carry in its multipurpose city hall several years ago, expressed support for the legislation and urged its passage to “ensure that other cities and towns like Lebanon can operate with clarity, consistency and respect for the rights of our residents.” The city was joined by the Buckeye Firearms Association and another gun-rights advocacy group who submitted testimony in favor of the bill.

The bill was firmly opposed by the Ohio Judicial Conference, an organization that represents the interests of each Ohio judge, in testimony highlighting the threats judges can face due to the nature of their position

“As an initial matter, the Judicial Conference opposes any efforts to expand the accessibility of deadly weapons in or near court facilities. As we all know, courts are places where disputes are settled, where justice is administered, and where emotions can run high,” wrote OJC Executive Director Paul Pfeifer. “...The Judicial Conference cannot support the allowance of weapons in any facility where a courtroom is located.”

Pfeifer raised concerns with the logistics of the bill’s provision forbidding concealed carry in a building containing a courtroom when court is in session, questioning how a person is meant to know when court is in session and what should happen if court were to go in session while someone carrying a concealed weapon was already in the building.

Despite OJC’s stance being joined by 27 other individuals in opposition to House Bill 272, the bill was approved by the House Government Oversight Committee along party lines. It’s not yet clear when the House will weigh in on the bill.

If either bill is approved by a majority of the House, it will move on to be considered by the Ohio Senate.

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