Ohio, Indiana governor still mum on Constitutional Carry

AP Photo/David Goldman

So far there’s been just one state that’s adopted Constitutional Carry language this year, but a number of other states have bills are simply awaiting a governor’s signature to take effect. Georgia House members signed off on a permitless carry bill on Friday, and Gov. Brian Kemp, who vocally supported the change in law this year, is expected to sign that legislation within days.

In two other states, however, final approval of the Constitutional Carry bills is still not assured. In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine hasn’t said yet what he plans to do with the Constitutional Carry bill that was approved by lawmakers almost two weeks ago.

Senate Bill 215 currently sits on DeWine’s desk, ready for his signature — or veto — after it was passed by the House in a 57-35 vote.

“I’m not gonna say much today other than, the job of the governor is to make tough decisions, and I have decision to make. That’s about all I will say,” DeWine told NBC4 on Friday.

If the governor signs SB 215, Ohio would become the 22nd state to eliminate permit requirements for people who wish to carry a concealed firearm, according to State Sen. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott), who sponsored the bill.

Gun rights advocates, including Rob Sexton of the Buckeye Firearms Association, rallied behind the bill, which they have said supports a person’s constitutional right to carry a gun without government interference.

The BFA is urging gun owners and Second Amendment supporters to contact DeWine’s office and tell him to sign the Constitutional Carry legislation, which would also become law ten business days after the governor’s office received the bill if DeWine doesn’t veto the measure.

In Indiana, meanwhile, one of the biggest critics of the Constitutional Carry legislation that’s currently on the desk of Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb just happens to be the governor’s superintendent of state police.

State police Superintendent Doug Carter has joined leaders of the state Fraternal Order of Police, police chiefs association and county prosecutors association in arguing that eliminating the permit system would endanger officers by stripping them of a screening tool for quickly identifying dangerous people who shouldn’t have guns.

After Carter told lawmakers that “if you choose to support this bill, you will not be supporting us,” Holcomb said, “I stand behind Superintendent Carter 110%.” But when asked about the permit repeal bill, Holcomb simply said he would give the bill “careful thought” once it reached his desk, “understanding what the superintendent articulated is real.”

Holcomb’s comment about standing behind his superintendent was carefully couched not to disparage the Constitutional Carry bill itself, but the governor hasn’t exactly been leading the charge for permitless carry in Indiana either. He may have been hoping to avoid having to take a position on the bill because of legislative inaction, but once the Indiana Senate revived the measure in the waning days of the session and brought it directly to the floor for a vote that possibility flew out the window.

Both governors may be worried about the optics of signing Constitutional Carry at a time when violent crime is rising in both states, but the fact remains that permitless carry doesn’t change who can lawfully carry a firearm in self-defense. It merely removes the requirement that those who can lawfully possess a gun obtain a government permission slip before they can legally carry it. Even in Constitutional Carry states, there are still plenty of tools and strategies for law enforcement to use that target violent offenders, and frankly, those are the folks who police should be focused on in the first place.

I’m still optimistic that both DeWine and Holcomb will do the right thing with these bills, but they need to be hearing from gun owners in Ohio and Indiana because they’re getting an earful from opponents of permitless carry. We should the governors’ decision at some point this week, but between now and then keep the calls and emails coming.