Republicans in the House expect to pass a law on Wednesday that would let Ohioans carry concealed firearms without a permit or training.
Senate Bill 215 gives people 21 or older, who are legally allowed to own a gun, permission to conceal that weapon, no training or permit required. It also removes the requirement to tell officers about the weapon unless asked.
Supporters say it’s how the Second Amendment should always have been applied.
“Ohio’s current system is set up as a privilege, not a right,” said John Weber, the state director for the National Rifle Association, in February. “Constitutional carry simply allows a person who is otherwise legally able to possess and carry a firearm to do so in a manner of their choosing.”
But Democrats and police organizations worry the changes will make communities less safe.
“This legislation puts Ohio law enforcement officials in the line of fire and makes them less safe,” Rep. Tavia Galonski, D-Akron, said. “We need to be taking steps to make our communities safer, and this dangerous bill does the opposite.”
Concealed carry in Ohio
Ohio legalized concealed carry in 2004, requiring adults to pass a background check, attend an approved safety class and fire their weapon at a range.
The state doesn’t consider the total number of active license holders a public record, but a Cincinnati Enquirer analysis from 2019 estimated that about 673,000 or one in 17 Ohioans has a CCW.
And it’s a number that’s been growing as the required training hours have dropped.
“The number of licenses renewed was 50% higher than the 2020 total and a record high for the program,” according to the attorney general’s 2021 report.
Reaction from law enforcement
Law enforcement groups such as the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police have long opposed removing training requirements for concealed carry.
“When you look at the numbers of revocations, suspensions and denials, those are serious numbers,” said Mike Weinmann, the director of government affairs for the Ohio FOP.
Ohio issued about 203,000 concealed carry permits in 2021, according to the Attorney General’s annual report. It revoked 420 licenses for reasons such as felony convictions or mental incompetence and denied 2,668 applications.
“And the number of regular-license denials was 50% higher than the 2020 total, marking a record high for the second consecutive year,” according to the report.
“Now those folks will be able to carry concealed weapons,” Weinmann said.
Democrats latched on these concerns, calling SB 215 anti-police. They questioned why Republicans who have long claimed to “back the blue” would vote for legislation that law enforcement doesn’t want.
The bill’s Senate sponsor, Terry Johnson, said in February that law enforcement opposition isn’t “monolithic.”
For example, the Buckeye Sheriff’s Association didn’t oppose SB 215.
“We took a neutral position because our biggest emphasis was on a duty to notify,” association director Robert Cornwell said. “We asked that a criminal penalty be placed on that, and it will be a criminal misdemeanor in the second degree.”
What happens next?
SB 215 won’t go to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk if it passes in the House Wednesday. State representatives added some amendments that the senators will need to vote on first.
House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, said, “hopefully it will be over in time for them to act on it if they wish.”
But Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said he isn’t sure whether there will be a concurrence Wednesday. His caucus wants to review the changes.
Reporter Jessie Balmert contributed reporting to this article.
Anna Staver is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.
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