Gun rights versus public safety: Proposed bill stirs debate

By J Swygart -

A proposal would allow anyone in Ohio to carry a concealed weapon, as long as the person’s not prohibited by federal law.

A proposal would allow anyone in Ohio to carry a concealed weapon, as long as the person’s not prohibited by federal law.

File photo | AP

LIMA — Proposed legislation currently making its way through the Ohio Statehouse to allow residents of the Buckeye State to carry a concealed weapon without a permit is nothing new.

Similar proposals have been introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives in previous sessions but have never generated enough support to come to a full vote of lawmakers.

Could this year be different?

Republican State Reps. Ron Hood of Asheville and Tom Brinkman of Cincinnati late last month introduced House Bill 174. The proposal, if adopted, would allow anyone age 21 and older to carry a hidden firearm without first obtaining a concealed carry permit.

The measure, known as “constitutional carry,” would not apply to individuals barred by federal law from carrying or possessing a weapon.

Currently, Ohioans can only carry a concealed weapon after obtaining a permit from a county sheriff upon passing a criminal background check and completing eight hours of training by a certified instructor, including two hours of range time and live-fire training.

State Rep. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, said changing the current law is a delicate balance. If a vote were taken today, Cupp is uncertain where his tally would come down.

“I don’t know. I’m thinking about it,” Cupp said Friday. “It’s a trade -off that involves bad guys carrying guns versus the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

Cupp said he appreciates the handgun training and safety components that are built into the current permit process and noted that element is one of many in the proposed legislation that will be debated.

“We’ll see how it all balances out,” Cupp said.

The bill has attracted 27 sponsors in the House, including State Rep. Susan Manchester, whose 84th District includes all or portions of Mercer, Drake, Auglaize and Shelby counties.

Manchester did not return calls seeking comment on the bill.

By the numbers

County sheriff’s offices across Ohio issued 168,302 concealed-carry licenses in 2018, an increase of 83 percent from the year before. The number of new concealed-carry licenses issued peaked in Ohio in 2016, when almost 118,000 licenses were issued. That was up from 71,589 in 2015. In 2017 and 2018 the number of new licenses fell to 77,000 and 69,000, respectively.

Nearly 400 of Putnam County’s 31,000 residents obtained or renewed concealed carry permits last year.

Sheriff Brian Siefker said the prospect of legislation to eliminate the issuance of concealed carry permits is “not a very good idea.”

“I don’t want to infringe on anybody’s Second Amendment rights, but we in law enforcement need to have that information” on who has passed training requirements and a background check. “We prefer that people have some training and show they know how to be safe with their weapon versus just letting everyone have a permit.”

Siefker said that when his road deputies “run” a vehicle’s license plate, among the information available to them is whether the owner of that vehicle is a concealed carry permit-holder. Such information, he said, is vital to the safety of his road officers.

Concealed carry permits are good for five years and cost $67 for first-time permit holders. Renewals after the initial five-year period are $50.

Siefker said that on occasion his office has denied or revoked permits based on a reasons ranging from a permit-holder’s involvement in a domestic violence incident to their conviction on a felony-level criminal charge.

Allen County

The Allen County Sheriff’s Office has issued almost 8,000 valid concealed carry permits since the law was placed on the books. In 2018 alone 1,608 CCW permits were issued or renewed in the county.

Allen County Sheriff Matt Treglia, unapologetically pro-gun in his approach to legislation that could curb the rights of individuals to legally possess and carry weapons, said he can “see both sides” of the argument for requiring concealed carry permits.

Treglia’s views mirror that of the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association when it comes to the mandatory training that goes along with the issuance of a concealed carry permit.

The BSSA opposes legislation that would eliminate the concealed carry application process, based on what the association deems as they key safety components that are part of the current permit process.

Treglia has similar concerns, although it took a family member’s experience with a firearm to bring the argument into focus.

“I have a sister who took the concealed carry class,” the sheriff said. “She had never before handled a gun, and she learned a lot of good safety precautions by taking the class. I would prefer the permit process to remain in place the way it is,” Treglia said, “because it can give people proficiency in handling a weapon and keep them and others from getting hurt.”

Wider impact

Law enforcement officials are not the only ones who have concerns about a repeal of the concealed carry permit process.

David Voth, executive director of Crime Victim Services of Allen County, said while the agency has no official position on the legislation, he personally favors gun laws that provide the greatest possible protection to potential victims.

“I support the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech, but you can’t yell fire maliciously in a crowded room,” Voth said. “Likewise, I support our Constitution’s Second Amendment rights, but you should not own a gun if you have or are likely to maliciously use it to victimize people, which means a background check is a wise balance. It is settled law by many U.S. Supreme Court decisions that a history of violence against victims is a constitutionally appropriate restriction to gun ownership.”

Voth said the nation’s highest court has ruled no fewer than five times that any person convicted of charges which contain elements of domestic violence are prohibited from the ownership or use of guns or ammunition.

Brinkman, one of the bill’s authors, said, “Gun owners are law-abiding citizens who follow the rules, and we need to let them be able to protect themselves. That’s what this is all about.”

A Quinnipiac University poll of 1,120 registered voters nationwide, conducted March 1-4 of this year, showed 60% of respondents support stricter gun laws in the United States and 93% favor background checks for all gun buyers. A Gallup poll in October 2018 showed 61% of Americans favor stricter gun control, although that figure was down from 67% just six months earlier.

Ohio’s gun-death rate in 2017 was the highest since numbers were compiled beginning in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A proposal would allow anyone in Ohio to carry a concealed weapon, as long as the person’s not prohibited by federal law. proposal would allow anyone in Ohio to carry a concealed weapon, as long as the person’s not prohibited by federal law. File photo | AP

By J Swygart

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