What will Ohio's governor do with Constitutional Carry?

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Is Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine really in a “tight spot” now that the state legislature has approved a Constitutional Carry bill, as one local news outlet suggests? The bill passed handily out of the House and Senate, though not with veto-proof majorities, and the measure is a top priority for Second Amendment groups in the state. There are also 21 other states that have already enshrined Constitutional Carry into law, so it’s not like Ohio is reinventing the wheel here.

If DeWine finds himself in a bind here, I’d argue it’s a problem he’s created on his own.

Last January, DeWine signed the controversial “Stand your Ground” bill (SB175) which removes the requirement for a person to retreat before shooting someone in self-defense. DeWine says he signed it because he said he had promised to do so during his campaign.

But DeWine has also said he doesn’t consider guns to be a high priority issue. He embraced some controls on guns, especially after the August 2019 mass shooting near Dayton that killed nine and injured 17 others. Just two months later, he stood alongside then Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat who is now running for governor in her party’s primary, when he announced his “Strong Ohio” gun reform plan.

That plan has gone nowhere since DeWine unveiled it more than two years ago, and I suppose the governor could try to bargain with House and Senate leadership about passing some or all of the measures in that package in exchange for his approval of Constitutional Carry. But with the Republican primaries coming up in just a couple of months and the governor facing multiple challengers, DeWine’s not in a great position to try to cut a deal with a bill that’s already cleared the legislature. If Constitutional Carry doesn’t become law in Ohio this year, Republicans aren’t going to blame state legislators. They’re going to pin the blame on the governor.
The Buckeye Firearms Association’s Rob Sexton doesn’t think it will come to that.
“A lot of our members are very unhappy about his support for Strong Ohio but happy with the duty to retreat,” Sexton said. “As [DeWine] heads toward his re-election campaign, it would be a heck of a message to send gun owners if he signs constitutional carry and emergency powers [another BFA policy goal] in that same year. I think it would send a message that he can be counted on for strong, pro-gun legislation.”
DeWine doesn’t actually have to sign the permitless carry legislation in order for it to take effect. Under Ohio law, the governor has ten days to veto a bill after it gets to his desk. If he takes no action, then the bill becomes law just like it had been signed.
Personally, I don’t care if DeWine holds a huge public signing ceremony or lets the bill quietly be enacted into law. The most important thing is to make permitless carry a reality, and with DeWine still publicly uncommitted, I hope that Ohio gun owners are contacting his office and are politely informing his staff that if he doesn’t support Constitutional Carry, they can’t support him in the upcoming primaries.