Ohio House votes to lessen penalties for people who take guns to prohibited areas

The Ohio House voted 64-31 on a bill Thursday that would lessen the penalty for people who carry concealed weapons into prohibited areas, such as a government building, church or private property.

The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police will fight the measure in the Senate, said FOP lobbyist Mike Weinman.

Related: New law allows handguns on workplace property

Currently, concealed carry weapons permit holders or qualified members of the military can be charged with a felony if they bring their guns into prohibited areas, including police stations, airport terminals, university campuses and other places. Becker’s bill would reduce it to a misdemeanor — and only if the person refused to leave when asked.

Becker said inadvertently carrying a concealed weapon into a government building is the same class of felony as safe cracking, grand theft auto or aggravated assault, which all carry penalties of up to 18 months in prison and $5,000 in fines. “That’s outlandish,” Becker said.

House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton, who says he is a gun owner, opposed the bill, saying it would promote a more casual approach to carrying a deadly weapon.

The bill, introduced in May, has 51 co-sponsors, including many from the Miami Valley. It passed the House largely along partisan lines, though Democrat Jack Cera voted in favor and Republicans Anthony DeVitis and Bill Reinke voted against it.

Related: Stand your ground law could come to Ohio

Ohio first adopted a CCW program in 2004. In the past five years, county sheriffs have issued 397,613 new permits and renewed another 195,328, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s 2016 report. Generally, adults who complete an eight hour training class and pass a criminal background check can qualify for a CCW permit.

Possible gun law changes 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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