(The Center Square) – An Ohio House committee plans to take a fourth look Thursday at a bill that would keep gun shops open during emergency declarations and allow communities to cordon off areas during a riot.
House Bill 325, introduced last May by Rep. Scott Wiggam, R-Wayne County, was a response to Gov. Mike DeWine’s closure of businesses at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, other governors restricting gun sales during the pandemic and protests in Ohio and the around the country in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Wiggam said during testimony at the bill’s first hearing in late September the proposal defined rights to buy, possess, carry, transport, train and use firearms in conjunction with exercising rights to protect themselves and feed their families as life sustaining.
“During the COVID pandemic, it became evident that local, state, and federal governments have wide powers to declare an emergency and implement restrictions on citizens’ rights,” Wiggam testified. “Fortunately, in Ohio, these powers were not used to infringe on second amendment rights. However, this was not the case in other states.”
The bill received support at its second hearing in October from the National Rifle Association and the Buckeye Firearms Association, which called the legislation necessary because Ohio might one day decide to restrict gun usage.
“Waiting until Ohio’s political behavior is less friendly toward gun owners simply means those protections will never be enacted,” Rob Sexton, legislative affairs director of the Buckeye Firearms Association, testified at the time. “Twenty-four states have made it crystal clear. Ohio should be next.”
Seven state residents submitted opposing testimony in early December, as well as David Lima, a member of the group Showing Up for Racial Justice.
“HB 325, if passed, will have a chilling effect on peaceful protesting by creating unsafe space for those choosing to exercise their First Amendment right to assemble and petition their government for redress of grievances,” Lima testified. “I participate in peaceful protests and organizations like SURJ, UUJO and Our Voices Together, from time to time, sponsors and co-sponsors such events. This legislation would alter laws now in place that are designed as safeguards to protect all who choose to exercise their First Amendment rights. This legislation would remove those protections. This legislation, if enacted, would make us all less safe by removing the safety guardrails put into place by law.”
The bill would allow municipalities to cordon off any area threatened by either a riot or a mob. It also would end a provision in state law that stops the sale or transportation of guns, ammunition, dangerous weapons and dangerous explosives in, to or from a cordoned off area.