Columbus Dispatch article on growing popularity of non-resident concealed carry licenses exposes need for national reciprocity

by Chad D. Baus

Early last year Dayton Daily News reporter Laura Bischoff wrote an article about Ohio residents who chose to obtain a non-resident, or out-of-state, concealed carry license from Utah. In the article, Bischoff echoed the assertions of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence's Toby Hoover, who suggested that the reason people obtain these licenses is to avoid Ohio's training requirements. At the time, Hoover suggested state Attorney General Richard Cordray should cancel the reciprocity agreement with Utah.

Eighteen months later, reporter James Nash of The Columbus Dispatch is taking his turn on the subject. And once again, Hoover is suggesting that something nefarious is going on.

From the Dispatch article:

While about 200,000 Ohioans have obtained permits to carry concealed firearms through the state, nearly 2,000 others have bypassed Ohio's requirements and gotten licenses from Utah - without even having to visit that state.

Ohio requires people to undergo 12 hours of handgun-proficiency training before they're eligible for a license to discreetly pack heat. Utah requires applicants to take a certified course but doesn't specify a number of hours.

Ohio also adds the names of permit holders to a law-enforcement database, whereas Utah does not.

Because the two states honor each other's handgun licenses, a resident of Ohio can take a Utah-certified course in Columbus or another Ohio city, send $65.25 to the Utah Department of Public Safety, pass a background check and be eligible to carry a handgun into public establishments across Ohio.

According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, 1,885 Ohioans have done just that.

The fact is, these licensees haven't "bypassed Ohio's requirements." Ohio law, via reciprocity agreements signed by the Ohio Attorney General, specifically recognizes licenses from states with laws the AG determines to be comparable to Ohio's. These licensees have met Ohio's requirements in every way.

But that isn't stopping Toby Hoover from inventing another "loophole" in the law.

Gun opponents say that's a loophole some Ohioans use to get around their state's more-stringent requirements.

"There has to be a reason someone wants to get (a permit from Utah), and it's usually because they don't qualify to go through the Ohio program," said Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.

Hoover is right about one thing. There is a reason people go to the time and expense of obtaining an out-of-state permit. However, it is not to avoid training.

Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said some Ohioans turned to other states - chiefly Utah - because the names of Ohio permit holders had been public record.

"Some people are still afraid of having their names printed in the papers, even though that hasn't been a problem in the last couple of years," Irvine said.

He dismissed the idea that Ohioans have obtained permits from Utah to get around the Buckeye State's requirement that they undergo 12 hours of firearms training.

"Our training bar is pretty high, although I'd say that's a pretty minor reason," Irvine said. "If you're going to carry, the idea of having the least possible training doesn't apply to many people."

Indeed, in many cases Ohioans obtain out-of-state permits in addition to their Ohio license. The reason? They are seeking the right to carry in states that do not yet recognize their Ohio license.

What the Dispatch and Daily News articles fail to discuss in any detail is that careful selection of non-resident concealed handgun licenses can greatly expand the number of states in which a law-abiding person may legally carry a handgun, beyond the states already available with an Ohio CHL. As such, one of the more popular sections in Buckeye Firearms Association's Education Guide is Lesson #21 - Non-Resident Licenses: When the Ohio Concealed Handgun License Isn't Enough.

At the end of the day, what these newspaper articles are exposing is the need for passage of a national reciprocity law. If such a law were enacted, it would allow a person who possesses a valid concealed weapons license issued by the state they reside in to carry a gun in every state that issues licenses (all states except Illinois and Wisconsin.) Such legislation would eliminate the need for so many Americans to play a game of "license bingo" every time they try to go on a long over-the-road trip.

Last year, nationwide reciprocity legislation was considered in the U.S. Senate, but failed when two Republicans, including Ohio's lame duck Republican Senator George Voinovich, voted AGAINST nationwide reciprocity for concealed carry license-holders. The resulting 58-39 vote failed to overcome a Democrat filibuster.

The Dispatch article also inadvertently exposes another reason why a nationwide reciprocity law should be passed:

In 2004, then-Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro began honoring Utah's permits even though the states' agreement requires "substantially comparable" eligibility requirements. Current Attorney General Richard Cordray interprets the rules as comparable.

The fact is that until nationwide reciprocity is passed into law, Ohioans' right to carry in other states is always going to be at the whim of whomever is currently the state attorney general. We've been fortunate that our last two attorneys general have been supportive of our right to carry. But what if Ohio's other anti-gun (former) Senator, Mike DeWine, succeeds in beating Cordray this November? Will DeWine, who in 2006 earned a ranking among the Top 10 anti-gun U.S. Senators, reverse the opinions of his predecessors, and decide that Ohio's and Utah's laws are not "substantially comparable?"

Law-abiding Ohioans should not be forced to labor under the burdensome and expensive process of obtaining multiple licenses in order to exercise their right to carry, nor should their right be subject to the whim of whomever happens to be state attorney general. It is time to pass a nationwide reciprocity law to fix these issues once and for all.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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