House OKs bill to expand concealed carry in public buildings

The Ohio House voted 57-29 along party lines Wednesday to make an exception to an Ohio law that bans concealed carry of a firearm in any building that houses a courtroom — despite protestations from the state’s leading judge association.

The bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

House Bill 272 sponsors Reps. Adam Mathews, R-Lebanon, and Scott Pizzuli, R-Scioto County, called it a “common sense clarification” to current law.

As things stand, concealed carry is not allowed whatsoever in any Ohio building that houses a courtroom but municipalities are able to permit concealed carry in public buildings such as a city hall. The bill’s sponsors argued that these two measures strip autonomy from smaller municipalities that often use multi-purpose public buildings that contain both city halls and courtrooms.

H.B. 272 proposes giving local municipalities the authority to permit or deny concealed carry in those multi-purpose public buildings that house courtrooms, but attempts to extend protections to judges and court workers by not allowing concealed carry in the building whenever court is in session.

This would directly impact places like Lebanon, where city leaders tried to allow concealed carry in its multipurpose public building several years ago and endured an extended legal battle as a result.

It would have no impact on designated courthouses, like the one that Dayton and Montgomery County share. Concealed carry would remain illegal in courthouses at all times.

“This legislation simply extends Ohio smaller municipalities the same right as larger ones with respect to local control and concealed carry,” Pizzuli said.

Rep. Latyna Humphrey, D-Columbus, argued that the bill’s safeguards aren’t enough.

“This provides little comfort for me and some of our constituents,” Humphrey said on the House floor. “Courtroom clerks, office staff and judges continue to work on our session days, leaving them vulnerable to potential harm from an angry plaintiff expressing their frustrations. Another critical concern is the uncertainty regarding when court is in session. How will an ordinary person entering the building know if court is in session or not?”

Identical concerns were levied at the proposal during the committee process. The director of the Ohio Judicial Conference, which represents the interests of judges throughout the state, told the committee that the organization could never support “any efforts to expand the accessibility of deadly weapons in or near court facilities.”

Other provision

The bill also contains a provision allowing individuals who had their right to possess a firearm taken away by an Ohio court to apply for relief in that same court system, whether or not the individual still lives in Ohio.

It’s a provision that Humphrey said ought to be in a standalone bill, but one that Rep. Josh Williams, R-Sylvania, a practicing criminal defense attorney, applauded the bill’s sponsors for including. He called it another important fix to Ohio law.

“The way it’s currently structured, you can only petition in a county in which you reside. So if an Ohio resident moves to Michigan, and eventually becomes eligible and tries to apply in Ohio to have his second amendment (rights) restored — he can’t. He’s not allowed,” Williams said just before the vote. “And Michigan does not have the authority to grant that relief because it’s an Ohio conviction. This cleans up that language and allows a court of competent jurisdiction to be allowed to hear that person’s petition and decide whether or not that individual should have their second amendment rights restored.”