Ohio’s Second Amendment Preservation Act is at an impasse. The sponsor remains optimistic about the measure, which strips reference to federal gun laws from the state code. But holdouts in the Republican caucus have kept it from a floor vote. Those lawmakers point to ardent opposition from law enforcement, and even the gun rights absolutist organization pushing the measure acknowledge the challenging path ahead.
“It’s not a good sign for the trajectory of the bill,” Chris Dorr of Ohio Gun Owners admitted as the Ohio House prepared to meet for a second time without bringing up the bill.
I think the work, the effort to slow down its progress has been somewhat successful,” he said. “Looks like the pro-gun community is going to have to ramp up our efforts.”
But instead of trying to bring lawmakers to their side, the organization has taken to social media, bashing lawmakers who have voiced concerns.
The measure, House Bill 51, was initially teed up for consideration on Dec. 6. The House Rules committee even stepped in to remove an emergency clause from the bill — in effect, lowering the threshold for passage to a simple majority.
Nevertheless, Republicans didn’t quite have enough votes to bring the bill to the floor. A week later, the math hadn’t improved.
Tuesday, House Speaker Jason Stephens explained, “we had some questions, so we want to get those details right. But it won’t be on the floor tomorrow, but it’s certainly still in discussions.”
“I think a lot of the people on our side of the aisle agree with that concept of making sure that the federal government cannot compel our local law enforcement to enforce federal gun laws,” Stephens said.
“It’s just, like I said, having it written down correctly, to where everybody feels comfortable about that—that that’s the goal, but that’s also what it does,” Stephens added.
The hang up is a set of civil liability provisions that could cost local agencies $50,000 if they work with the feds. Supporters argue it’s an “anti-commandeering” measure that, as Stephens alluded, keeps federal authorities from taking charge of local agencies.
The people working at those agencies, however, argue the bill’s language is so sweeping that many task forces and investigative tools would be off-limits. Ohio’s police chiefs and prosecuting attorneys have come out in opposition to the bill.
Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, served as Montgomery County Sheriff before coming to the Statehouse. He explained some law enforcement opposition carries a lot of weight — including with him — but he believes there’s still a path forward.
“I don’t think we’re far apart,” he said, “I think we can come up with a compromise and land the plane, and I’ve committed I’d help them do that, because I’m a big Second Amendment guy. But I just can’t shut down task forces right now. They are too important.”
Like Plummer, Rep. Cindy Abrams, R-Cincinnati, served in law enforcement before running for office. She cited a partnership in her district, called the Cincinnati Gun Intelligence Center, or CGIC, which brings together city and county law enforcement as well as resources from the ATF and the Department of Homeland Security.
“We are solving crimes, violent gun crimes, in Hamilton County,” she explained, “So again with this bill and the language that it says, it basically severs that relationship.”
“Public safety is my number one,” she added, “Keeping people safe is number one. It’s what I did as a beat cop for the city of Cincinnati, and it’s what I’ll continue to do here.”
Although Abrams said she’s been vocal in the caucus explaining how the bill could threaten partnerships like CGIC, she’s not completely hostile to the idea. She noted she’s “a lifetime member of the NRA” who carries a gun and has a concealed weapons permit. Abrams seemed to indicate she could even get on board, “if we can get to language that will suffice, again, and not take away that federal partnership that local law enforcement needs.”
“I never got the damn t-shirt.”
But instead of courting Abrams, Ohio Gun Owners took to social media to accuse her of carrying water for the Fraternal Order of Police and the Buckeye Sheriffs Association. “To be clear, these organizations don’t represent beat cops and constitutional law enforcement,” an OGO blog post insists.
They include a picture of Abrams upside down saying she probably fell off her broom.
Abrams shrugged it off and insisted voters see through that.
“I’m going to always support people’s right to keep and bear arms,” she said. “And at the end of the day, if they’re going to make up lies about me, it doesn’t matter because that’s just what they are as lies.”
The organization posted a photo of Rep. Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton, with the head of rhino superimposed on hers — an allusion to the jibe RINO, Republican in name only.
“I’m a member of (Ohio Gun Owners), so I think that’s hilarious,” she said. “I paid my dues. I never got the damn t-shirt though.”
On social media, Carruthers urged Ohio’s gun owners to lobby OGO to figure out a compromise with law enforcement interests. The organization pushed back vehemently.
“We don’t compromise with commies, Sara,” the group wrote, referring to the Fraternal Order of Police, Buckeye Sheriffs Association and Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.
“And SHAME on you for trying to use your public office in order to try to intimidate OGO into backing off of our concrete support for HB 51.”
Notably, Carruthers actually likes the bill. “I think it’s a great idea. I like the purpose of the bill,” she said. But she argued law enforcement opposition is a significant stumbling block, and the parties need to get into a room and hash out a compromise.
“Neutral maybe?” she offered, “Neutral would be good. We could deal with neutral, right?”
Follow OCJ Reporter Nick Evans on Twitter.
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