Ohio Bill To Protect Gun Purchases During Riots Advances

AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

Imagine, if you will, that you owned no firearms. Maybe you live in a sleepy part of the world where it’s just never been a concern, somewhere in a state like Ohio.

Now, one day, something happens and people get angry. The night is torn about by riots for several days, and those riots are creeping closer to your home. You decide you need a gun, so you go to buy one. However, the store can’t sell you one. How upset and frustrated would you be?

How much worse would it be when rioters attack your home the next night?

The thing is, in Ohio, that can happen as things currently stand. Yet a bill seeking to address that just took a step toward becoming law.

Legislation to ban police from stopping guns from being sold or carried in areas where a riot is happening or might take place passed the Ohio Senate 23-7 on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 185, which now heads to the Ohio House, would also declare gun stores an “essential business” that can’t be shut down by the state during a declaration of emergency.

State Sen. Tim Schaffer, a Lancaster Republican sponsoring SB185, said the bill stems from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when law enforcement confiscated firearms from New Orleans residents. The Louisiana legislature subsequently passed a bill prohibiting the seizure of firearms during a state of civil disorder.

Gov. Mike DeWine didn’t include gun stores in his list of businesses he ordered closed during the initial weeks of the coronavirus pandemic emergency last year, but governors in five other states did: Massachusetts, New Mexico, Washington, New York and Michigan (the latter two states allowed stores that sell both guns and other merchandise, such as Walmart and hardware stores, to remain open).

Supporters of SB185 say they want protections for gun stores put in state law now to prevent any future Ohio governor or lawmakers from closing them during an emergency. Schaffer said lawmakers in 24 other states have already passed similar bills.

Of course, not everyone is on board with this bill. Some have argued that the bill would make it impossible to keep rioters disarmed. To that, I simply point out that rioters already loot and burn plenty. If they want a gun, they’ll loot one from somewhere. They’re damn sure not likely to buy one.

Schaffer, like me, remembers all the stories of gun confiscation taking place after Hurricane Katrina. Many states passed laws that expressly forbid any gun confiscation during an emergency. Where Schaffer is taking things a step further is by also making it so those without a gun can still purchase one.

That’s a big step, and one other states should adopt as well if they haven’t already.

In an emergency, especially some kind of civil unrest, many people will feel the need to purchase a firearm. The Second Amendment preserves their right to do so. This bill seeks to do essentially the same thing by making it clear that a state of emergency isn’t a valid exception.