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Ohio News | Article published Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Taft to sign bill allowing concealed weapons


COLUMBUS - Gov. Bob Taft angered anti-gun activists and some of the most ardent gun-rights groups yesterday by agreeing to sign a controversial bill allowing Ohioans to carry hidden handguns.

The Senate today is expected to send the bill back to the House, where some of its earlier supporters are bristling over changes made to restrict how guns are carried in a car. The concessions won the neutrality of the Ohio Highway Patrol yesterday, key to Mr. Taft’s change of position.

"The bill, as it is apparently moving out of the Senate, meets all the tests we have put forward with respect to training, background checks, and especially the support or nonopposition of local law-enforcement authorities," said Mr. Taft. "If a bill like that came to my desk, I would sign it."

The bill would allow Ohioans who are at least 21 years old, complete 12 hours of firearm training, and pass criminal and mental-health background checks to receive four-year permits to carry handguns on themselves or in their cars.

The issue has crossed party lines and has instead divided lawmakers along urban and suburban-rural lines.

The measure is supported by the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association, whose members would process permit applications. The highway patrol and Fraternal Order of Police have adopted positions of neutrality. The Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police remains opposed.

Mr. Taft said the bill would never receive support from all law enforcement and that he was satisfied with either the support or neutrality of the major groups. He said he considered the two to be the same thing.

Toby Hoover of the Toledo-based Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence said it is no coincidence the bill is moving now, just as the General Assembly prepares to vote on a two-year budget.

"It’s been planned," she said. "This is very good timing. The governor and senators are under a lot of pressure. I think they think the people aren’t watching. ... I’ll stand with the churches, the police chiefs, prosecutors, and the rest of Ohioans who say no."

To win the neutrality of the highway patrol, and therefore the promise of Mr. Taft’s signature, the Senate Judiciary on Criminal Justice Committee yesterday amended the bill to require that a gun carried in a car be kept in a holster in plain sight or securely stored in the glove compartment or a locked gun case.

If the driver or a passenger in the car is under 18, the gun must be locked away.

To win the support of some Democrats, public buildings and child day-care centers were added to the list of places where concealed guns would be prohibited. That list also includes police stations, jails, airport terminals, school safety zones, courthouses, places of worship, or any private property that an owner declares to be off limits to guns.

"I think it’s a responsible bill, one that looks out for the safety of the general public," said Sen. Steve Austria (R., Beavercreek), Civil Justice chairman.

Although the measure would make Ohio the 46th state to allow the carrying of concealed handguns, Gary Joseph of the Ohio Gun Rights Coalition said his organization now opposes it.

"It’s accurate to call this a gun-owners registration bill now," he said. "With the additional prohibitions put in, you basically can’t carry a gun anywhere except your own home or your own property. ... You can’t take it in your car for all practical purposes."

The National Rifle Association and Ohioans for Concealed Carry have yet to take formal positions that could influence the reaction in the House.

But Rep. Ron Young (R., Leroy), one of the more conservative House members, suggested a requirement that a gun be kept "in plain sight" could backfire.

"I can imagine a scenario in which someone’s gun is holstered under their jacket and they’re reaching for their gun to put it in plain sight as the police officer is approaching their vehicle," he said. "I could see a police officer reacting in a very adverse way to someone wrestling a gun from a concealed position."

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Here's from another site about this bill;

We have a new Senate President, and a new committee chairman. Thanks, in part, to the efforts of the OFCC PAC, the Senate Republican caucus won a super-majority last November. Two more states have become shall-issue right-to-carry states this spring, and Alaska's legislature passed a "Vermont-style" right-to-carry bill just last week, citing success with their existing right to carry law. HB12 passed out of the House with a veto-proof 69-28 vote.

Over the past few months, OFCC has provided Senate committee members with a wealth of information which proved conclusively that added restrictions (the ones they just inserted) are absolutely not necessary, and in fact that many are unsafe. The Senate committee did not adopt a single suggestion or improvement made by OFCC. Yet, they adopted every conceivable amendment suggested by anti-self-defense extremists in our state, and most Senate Republicans concurred.

One principled conservative Republican stood out as the voice of reason in yesterday's Senate hearing. Lynn Wachtmann (R, Napoleon), said that one of the reasons he ran for office was to get to vote on a good concealed carry bill. But he told Senators a bad bill is not better than no bill. Wachtmann voted "no."

As was indicated by the announcement of our opposition to proposed changes before the vote, Ohioans For Concealed Carry agrees that no bill is better than a bad bill. The difficult question is, "what defines a bad bill?"

While that answer may be different for different people, the concensus at Ohioans For Concealed Carry is that Am. Sub. HB12 is not a bad bill, but a TERRIBLE bill in many respects. At a minimum, it is MORE restrictive than current law.

For example, under current law, if you are arrested for CCW, or arrested for CCW in a motor vehicle, the law provides several affirmative defenses that can be used in court at trial. Under Sub HB 12, the only people that qualify for an affirmative defense for carrying a firearm for self-defense in a vehicle are those with a protective order against someone. All others would require a CCW license and only then, the gun must be in plain sight, unless you have minors in the car, then you have to lock it up. While existing law has serious flaws, it is clearly better than giving Ohioans NO legal option to protect themselves in a pinch.

Had lawmakers left all of the affirmative defenses in place, and also retained the right to carry for parents who want to protect their children, then Am. Sub. HB12 would have qualified as a bad bill, just not so terrible.

It is for these reasons which we believe House Representatives should vote against concurrence with the Senate amendments, and send the bill to a conference committee.

A coalition of nearly 50 businesses and tens of thousands of grassroots supporters (represented by several Ohio self-defense rights organizations and a conservative political group) endorsed HB12 as it left the House. Absolutely no self-defense rights groups in Ohio support the Senate's amendments.

What can you do to help?

1) Time is short. Call your Representative NOW and ask them NOT to concur with the Senate's restrictions, which succeed only in making current Ohio law WORSE than it already is.

2) Let the Ohio Republican Party know the damage Gov. Taft is working within the party's base.

Taft DOES have a boss, in a sense, outside of the people of the state of Ohio (whom he consistently ignores). He wants to seek higher office (on a national level). To do that, he must go through the Party. The Party needs to be shown the results from allowing Taft to continue on this path are beginning to damage their conservative base voters, threatening to create voter apathy and lower voter turnout.

Call your county Republican chairperson, and the party's precinct committeepersons. Work you way up the chain if you can. Let them know why, after what you've seen out of this monopoly by Republicans in Ohio, you're seriously considering giving the Democrats a chance, or why you don't think it's even worth voting any more, because you can see no difference between the two. Tell them you want Conservatives nominated for office by the Party, not Republicrats.

The Republican party was deeply concerned last election about the effect Taft's moderate stance would have on voter turnout. Other issues entirely brought their base to the polls, so it turned out not to be a factor, but they were scared. After his anti-self-defense actions in the Ohio Senate, they should be much more scared heading into 2004.
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