Republicans are making another run at relaxing the rules for Ohioans who legally carry concealed firearms after an effort stalled last summer to eliminate the entire permit process.
The new bill, which got its first hearing Wednesday, would require people with concealed handgun licenses to tell an officer verbally that they’re armed or hand over that license after being asked for identification. The currently law merely requires them to tell law enforcement “promptly.”
“My legislation strikes this vague language,” Rep. Scott Wiggam, R-Wooster, said.
House Bill 425 also would downgrade the penalty for not notifying from a first-degree misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000 to a civil citation with a maximum fine of $25.
“This bill also strengthens families and communities by protecting the (conceal-carry license) holders so they may comfortably answer law enforcement questions without fear of being arrested due to subjective notification language and Draconian penalties,” Wiggam said.
Multiple General Assemblies have loosened restrictions for Ohio’s approximately 685,000 active permit holders since the licenses were created in 2005. For example, lawmakers lowered the number of training hours for a license from 12 to eight in 2014, and they expanded the places people could carry to include bars, shopping malls and museums in 2011.
But legislative leaders stopped short of eliminating the permit process entirely for people who want to carry concealed weapons.
House Bill 178, which had a series of contentious committee hearing in the spring of 2019, would allow anyone who legally owned a firearm to carry it without passing a training course or submitting to a background check.
It was opposed by such groups as the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, the Westerville City Council and Moms Demand Action.
“The bill allows for those being charged with a crime of violence to carry a concealed weapon,” Michael Weinman, from the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, said in May. “HB 178 permits those who have been convicted of resisting arrest in the past 10 years, and misdemeanor assault on a peace officer, to carry a concealed weapon.”
Wiggam was a co-sponsor of that “constitutional carry” bill and said it’s “the best way forward.” But he told the committee this week that’s not what he new bill is about.
“I am delivering a bill that I think would be a compromise,” Wiggam said. “A bill that would look at the legal issues that are hitting and hurting people right now and eliminate those.”
Buckeye Firearms Association’s Executive Director Dean Rieck said in a statement to The Dispatch that it support’s Wiggam’s latest effort on conceal carry permits.
“This bill will fix the arbitrary and confusing standard of ‘promptly’ notifying a police officer when you are carrying a concealed handgun and make complying with the law easier and safer for gun owners,” Rieck said.