Constitutional Carry passes Ohio legislature

(AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)

Ohio appears poised to become the 22nd Constitutional Carry state after the state House and Senate approved SB 215 within a few hours of each other on Wednesday afternoon. The Buckeye Firearms Association has the details:

On Wednesday, March 2, 2022, the Ohio House voted 57-35 to pass Senate Bill 215, sponsored by Sen. Terry Johnson.

About an hour later, the Senate concurred with a vote of 24-8. This means the bill now moves to the Governor’s desk!

The bill seeks to make a concealed handgun license optional in Ohio. It also clarifies how and when a person must notify law enforcement about carrying a firearm, so that an officer simply asks.

We are at a historic moment in Ohio legislative history. This is the closest we’ve ever been to passing a bill to make the licensing process optional for concealed carry of a firearm. Bills have been presented in former legislative sessions, but have not advanced.

If the Governor signs this bill, we’ll have Constitutional Carry in Ohio law in about 90 days!

“If” isn’t a hypothetical. Gov. Mike DeWine hasn’t committed to signing the bill, and he’s up for re-election come November, so  the contacts his office receives from voters in the coming days may very well determine whether or not he puts pen to paper. DeWine faces three challengers in the Republican primary, so now would be a particularly bad time to veto the biggest priority of the state’s Second Amendment organizations, but stranger things have happened in an election year, so if you’re an Ohioan who supports Constitutional Carry, now’s the time to let the governor know where you stand.

The legislative approval in Ohio isn’t the only positive news about Constitutional carry to talk about, by the way. This time last week I was more than a little concerned about Constitutional Carry legislation stalling out in Indiana, given the fact that a Senate committee stripped the necessary language from the bill in question. On Wednesday, however, a conference committee comprised of members of both the state House and Senate breathed new life into the measure with a procedural vote that could soon send the bill to the floors of both chambers.

Republican senators offered proposed legislation Wednesday in what’s called a conference committee report, stripping language out of an unrelated drug-scheduling bill and replaced it with the “constitutional carry” provision in a 12 minute-long meeting. Conference committee chair Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, provided little explanation, and declined to hear any testimony.

Democrats stayed after the committee adjourned to hear the testimony from concerned Hoosiers who showed up at the Statehouse, but none of that was aired on the General Assembly’s website or heard by Republicans.

The committee report is just a draft, but if representatives from all four caucuses sign off on the report, it would become the final version of the bill. Both chambers would then vote on it.

The votes are there in the House, which has already approved Constitutional Carry language once this session. Senate president Rodrick Bray has also said that a majority of Republicans support passage of permitless carry, so as long as the conference committee can move their report along in the next few days there should be time for both House and Senate to approve the new bill before the legislature adjourns on March 14th.

Meanwhile, the Alabama Senate could cast its own vote on Constitutional Carry as early as tomorrow, according to Sen. Gerald Allen, the bill’s sponsor, and the Georgia House could do the same with a permitless carry bill that was approved by the state Senate on Tuesday.

Dallas Republican Sen. Jason Anavitarte, the bill’s sponsor, said that as a response to the rise in violent crime Georgians have an increased interest in purchasing a firearm to protect themselves.

“This law is strictly intended to remove an unnecessary burden from law-abiding Georgians,” he said. “…What everyone in this chamber needs to understand is this: The growing response by law-abiding constituents to hearing these terrible stories is to go buy a gun and protect themselves. They want to protect themselves from the criminals who are committing the crimes.”

Under the bill, any “lawful weapons carrier” could carry a concealed firearm without first going through the licensing process that usually requires a fingerprint, background check and a fee.

The bill defines a “lawful weapons carrier” as “any person who is not prohibited by law” from carrying a weapon — excluding Georgians with prior drug convictions, felony convictions or charges and those treated for mental health or substance abuse issues within five years.

With the exception of Florida’s Constitutional Carry bill, which is still languishing in committee with no Senate co-sponsor, things are actually looking pretty good for the permitless carry legislation that’s been introduced around the country. Actually, that’s not quite true. I forgot about Nebraska’s Constitutional Carry bill, which hasn’t seen much action either, at least not since a committee hearing in late January (though it did pick up a couple of co-sponsors on Wednesday).

Of all of the permitless carry bills in Republican-majority legislatures, I’d say Florida’s legislation is the only one that is dead in the water at the moment. In Ohio, Indiana, Alabama, and Georgia, prospects look pretty darn good, but Nebraska is still very much on the fence.

Gun owners can improve the odds of all of these bills becoming law by contacting their representatives and state senators and urging them to support Constitutional Carry, and I hope that lawmakers are getting that message from their constituents. We’ve got a great chance to turn half the country into Constitutional Carry states this year, but it won’t happen unless Second Amendment supporters lend their voices to the cause.