Wednesday was a good day for gun owners in the Buckeye State, with the Republican-led House of Representatives in Columbus signing off on two big pieces of pro-2A legislation.
The bill that will be of greater importance to most people is HB 227, a Constitutional Carry measure that sailed through the House on a 60-32 vote. The Buckeye Firearms Association was quick to hail the bill’s passage, declaring that the state has been behind the curve when it comes to the right to carry.
“Ohio is far behind other states in recognizing Ohioans’ right to freely carry firearms without a burdensome licensing process,” said Dean Rieck, Executive Director of Buckeye Firearms Association. “There is no other Constitutional right where we tolerate so many barriers. In 21 other states, no licensing is required. It is time for Constitutional Carry in Ohio.”
HB 227 also addresses one of the more confusing aspects of Ohio gun law, the so-called “duty to inform.” Under current law, a person encountering law enforcement must “promptly” notify an officer that they are carrying. The word “promptly” has been interpreted differently by various police agencies and prosecutors, leaving gun owners in a vulnerable position, even when they believe they have complied with the law.
Ohio is one of only nine states to put the burden of notification on the person carrying a firearm. HB 227 removes the ambiguity of current law by clarifying that a person must notify an officer only when asked during a stop.
The state Senate, meanwhile has its own Constitutional Carry bill under consideration. SB 215 has received two committee hearings so far, but has yet to get a vote that would move the bill to the Senate floor.
Another bill that passed the Ohio House on Wednesday isn’t getting quite as many headlines, but is still a measure that many gun owners, parents, teachers, and students will be interested in. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that school districts cannot arm staff members to serve as a first line of defense against active assailants unless the employees have gone through the 700+ hours of training required to be a law enforcement officer in the state. Dozens of school districts and thousands of employees who’ve volunteered, been vetted, and have undergone training have been impacted, but HB 99 promises a reasonable fix.
House Bill 99 would create a minimum amount of training, 20 hours initially and four hours on a recurring basis, for educators to bring guns to school. The bill passed out of the House on a 58-33 vote, with the only GOP “no” vote coming from former elementary school teacher and state Rep. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville.
Bill sponsor Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., said the bill is especially necessary for rural areas where first responders aren’t as populous and can take longer to get to schools in the event of an emergency.
“Some of the inner city schools have police officers at their school, some of these rural schools don’t have that luxury,” Hall said.
State Rep. Stephanie Howse, D-Cleveland, took issue with the idea that the bill would be universally welcomed in schools, particularly in predominantly Black schools, as well as those that have to pass through metal detectors just to get into schools.
“Ask our Black boys … how safe will they feel knowing that they have armed teachers,” Howse said. “When you look statistically, our children, Black babies, are overcriminalized.”
First, the bill simply allows for districts to implement these programs if they choose, so no district is going to be required to adopt an armed school staff policy, and no staff member is going to be required to carry a firearm.
But Howse should also understand that students won’t know who these armed school staff members are. The only time it will be an issue is if, God forbid, there’s an attack on the school and those students, and if that ever happens my suspicion is that students of all races, colors, and creeds will be grateful that there was an immediate armed response ready to address the threat to their lives.
Despite the contentious debate, the vote itself wasn’t close. HB 99 passed by a vote of 59-33, and now heads to the state Senate for consideration. With Republicans in control of that chamber as well, I’d say the prospects of Constitutional Carry and the armed school staff legislation getting to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk look pretty good at the moment.