HB12 bill signing by then Ohio Gov. Bob Taft

BFA celebrates 20 years of legal concealed carry in Ohio

Over the course of a decade filled with political drama and dire predictions, Ohio legislators introduced seven separate bills in an attempt to bring concealed carry to Ohio.

Finally, on Jan. 8, 2004, House Bill 12 made it to the desk of Gov. Bob Taft, who signed the bill, and made Ohio the 46th state to legalize concealed carry. The new law went into effect 20 years ago today, on April 8, 2004.

Buckeye Firearms Association volunteers played a key role in this battle for constitutional rights, and stood beside the governor as he signed the bill into law.

However, the battle over concealed carry in Ohio actually began 165 years ago, in 1859, when state legislators passed a law banning the carrying of concealed weapons.

That law stood unchallenged for 115 years, until 1974, when the state modified the ban to provide an affirmative defense to the charge of concealed carry if the accused could prove circumstances to justify a prudent person to go armed.

Then in 1995, the push to legalize concealed carry began with a "may issue" bill in the Senate and two "shall issue" bills in the House. Interestingly, it was a Democrat, Sen. Joseph Vukovich, who sponsored the Senate bill, and two Republicans, Gov. George Voinovich and House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, who opposed and killed it.

Voinoich and Davidson went on to kill two more bills in 1997 and 1999.

The battle continued over the next few years as BFA volunteers (at that time under the name Ohioans for Concealed Carry PAC) collected petition signatures and organized open carry "defense walks," the constitutionality of the carry ban was challenged in court, and yet another bill was introduced and ultimately died at the end of 2002.

In January 2003, Rep. Jim Aslanides introduced H.B. 12. Despite Gov. Taft's efforts to add poison pill amendments, including giving the media access to the individual records of license holders and threatening to veto the bill, the governor eventually signed the bill under the threat of a veto override.

H.B. 12 was far from an ideal law. But once concealed carry became legal, the stage was set to begin making improvements, which BFA pursued vigorously. Efforts included legal action to force sheriffs to comply with the law, bills to correct nonsensical carry requirements, a reversal of the media access loophole, the introduction of castle doctrine, the passage of preemption to forbid local gun control, lawsuits against cities challenging preemption, multiple Ohio Supreme Court victories, and the passage of permitless carry, among many other advancements.

None of this was easy. In fact, it has been relentless, exhausting work. But this is what it takes if you're determined to exercise your rights when so many work against you.

The payoff? Today, Ohio ranks as one of the most Second Amendment-friendly states in the country.

Dean Rieck is Executive Director of Buckeye Firearms Association, a former competitive shooter, NRA Patron Member, former #1 NRA Recruiter, and host of the Keep and Bear Radio podcast.

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