Dispatch: ''Senators hope to gain union's support to prevent veto''
Ohio Senate Republicans are making a last-ditch attempt to satisfy the Fraternal Order of Police on a concealed-weapons bill and perhaps win the approval of Gov. Bob Taft.
The senators are preparing to upgrade training requirements and give officers a fast way to check the validity of permits to carry hidden handguns.
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But the backroom negotiations could alienate proponents of the legislation if they require too much of gun owners, especially a registry of permit-holders. And even the changes supported by the FOP might not be enough to get Taft to sign the bill.
House Bill 274, passed by the House on March 21, is scheduled for several hearings this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Jeff Jacobson, R-Vandalia, the committee chairman, has been working behind the scenes with "interested parties'' and will release a revised version of the bill today.
"My mission was to bring the FOP on board and see what we could do with respect to the other police organizations,'' Jacobson said.
The governor has said he would veto any concealed-weapons bill that lacks support from a majority of the law-enforcement community.
Although the Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association supported the bill as it came from the House, the FOP opposed it, as did the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police and the State Highway Patrol.
"I think we'd like to find a bill that they (the governor's office) could live with,'' Jacobson said.
While Jacobson was mum on negotiations and declined to reveal details about the new version of the bill, Michael Taylor of the FOP said his group wants more specific training requirements for permit-holders and a way for police officers to verify the validity of permits when stopping vehicles.
Taylor said he had communicated his organization's wishes to Jacobson but was unaware of what would be included in the new version of the bill.
Officers need a database for an instantaneous check of permits, he said.
"We suspect, as with other (licenses), that people will try to fake 'em.''
Taylor said the FOP wants permit applicants to show through field proficiency and a written test that they know how to shoot, maintain and store their weapon.
He said permit-holders should be required to requalify after a certain number of years.
House Bill 274 requires a gun-safety course and at least four hours of live-fire training, but no written testing and no requalification. It also exempts from the training active military personnel or reservists, retired police officers or corrections officers, and individuals who have had hunting licenses for at least three years. Taylor said some of these exemptions should be eliminated, and that between 10 and 20 hours of training would be desirable.
John Hohenwarter, Midwest spokesman for the National Rifle Association in Fairfax, Va., did not return telephone calls.
Jeff Garvas, president of Ohioans for Concealed Carry, said putting permit-holders in a database would "probably be a deal-breaker'' for proponents of the bill.
"Gun registration is unnecessary and a violation of your privacy,'' he said.
Taylor said even if the FOP's wish list of changes is adopted, his group still would not endorse the bill.
"We don't oppose the concept of conceal-carry,'' he said. "We would be neutral.''
But that apparently would not gain Taft's support.
"He's pretty much said it would have to have the OK of the law-enforcement community,'' said spokesman Joe Andrews. "Neutral is not OK.''
If the revised bill clears the Senate and the changes are accepted by the House, Taft might veto the measure, in which case lawmakers could override. But the likelihood of that is slim.
Next week is the last scheduled session planned for the year, and all bills not enacted die Dec. 31 with the formal end of the current two-year session. Conceal-carry advocates would have to start again in January.