Ohio Pushes To Become Next Constitutional Carry State

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

It’s not likely to happen before the end of the year, but the chances of Constitutional Carry taking effect in Ohio are much stronger today than they were just a few days ago. On Wednesday the state Senate in Columbus approved a bill removing the requirement that legal gun owners obtain a government-mandated permission slip before carrying a concealed firearm (Ohio already allows for the open carrying of a firearm without the need for a permit), sending the bill over to the state House for approval.

Meanwhile, the state House has already approved a permitless carry bill of its own, so Constitutional Carry has in fact passed both chambers of the Ohio legislature. Unfortunately, because we’re talking about two different bills, neither one are ready to head to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk just yet.

The Buckeye Firearms Association says it supports both bills, and told members on Wednesday that “odds are good that one of these bills will move through the next series of hearings and be put before the Governor for his signature.”

DeWine has said in the past that he supports Constitutional Carry “in theory”, though he’s kept pretty quiet about the bills that are currently in the state legislature. There’s likely to be some back and forth between House and Senate leadership about which bill to move forward, but the differences between the two appear pretty minor.

Both SB215 and House Bill 227 would allow anyone age 21 or older to carry a concealed firearm unless state or federal law prohibits them from possessing a gun. If either becomes law, Ohio will become the 22nd state to allow conceal-carry in public without needing a license, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Ohio currently requires conceal-carry applicants to take eight hours of training, pass a background check, and pay a fee, among other things.

Both bills would also no longer require motorists to tell law enforcement about concealed handguns in their vehicles, though drivers would still have to truthfully say whether they have a gun with them if an officer asks.

Right now, drivers who fail to pre-emptively notify an officer in Ohio that they have a gun with them face a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and suspension of their concealed-handgun license. The two bills would each eliminate that penalty.

As the Buckeye Firearms Association’s Dean Rieck explained in his update to members, there is “confusion in the current law about how and when to notify a police officer if you’re carrying a firearm,” but the Constitutional Carry legislation should end the confusion by simply stating that gun owners must tell officers that they’re carrying when they’re asked if they have a gun on them or in their vehicle. According to Rieck, the tweak to the current law will “make law enforcement encounters less stressful and safer for everyone.”

Clear standards are always better than subjective ones, and whatever bill the legislature decides to run with should be a marked improvement over the status quo; both in terms of providing clarity to gun owners who are carrying and not having to receive the government’s seal of approval before exercising a fundamental right to begin with. With anti-gun activists trying to rally opposition, however, it’s critically important that Ohio gun owners contact their lawmakers as well as the governor to encourage their support to make the Buckeye State the 22nd in the nation to adopt a Constitutional Carry standard.