FLASH: Senate Judiciary Committee passes amended HB495 (Reciprocity & Concealed Carry Modernization)

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by Jim Irvine

On Wednesday morning the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee adopted three amendments and passed HB495. The vote was 6-2 along party lines, with at least two members absent.

The committee, chaired by Mark Wagoner (R-Ottawa Hills) adopted three amendments before the bill was sent to the full Senate for third consideration.

One amendment was at the request of the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP). It addressed concerns about loaded magazines being transported with firearms. The OSHP asked that there be some sort of separation of the gun and loaded magazine. Since that is the common practice to transport weapons, we were agreeable to the idea. Drafting to ensure that gun owners are not entrapped by vague laws but criminals could be prosecuted proved more difficult. We thank Lt. McGinty, Col. John Born and others at OSHP who spent considerable time working with us to address the concerns of gun owners.

While neither the Buckeye State Sheriff Association (BSSA) nor the OSHP testified for or "endorsed" HB495, neither of these groups testified against or opposed it. We salute these law enforcement brothers for taking the time to understand the issues at hand and discuss their concerns in a polite and constructive manner. Bill sponsor Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) also made sure all sides that raised reasonable concerns worked with other interested parties to facilitate agreements that will work for all Ohio citizens.

The second amendment dealt with government-owned parking garages. It has been over four years since Governor Strickland signed SB184, Ohio's "Castle Doctrine" legislation. That legislation was packed full of important improvements for gun owners. One of those changes provided that government-owned parking lots are not prohibited areas for firearms. But local boards such as the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (SCRAB) have created confusion by banning guns in areas under their control, even though the legislature has never granted them such power. Senator Faber (R-Celina) offered an amendment to clarify that they have no such authority and law-abiding gun owners will be permitted to have their firearms stored in their cars in the state owned parking garages such as the one under the Statehouse.

The third amendment, offered by Senator Bill Seitz (R-8), extended the effective date of the changes in reciprocity to 180 days, rather than the traditional 90 days.

Buckeye Firearms Association Legislative Chair Ken Hanson testified in support of the bill. Excerpts from his testimony follows:

I am testifying in support of H.B. 495, and I urge this committee to vote today to pass this legislation on to the full Senate. H.B. 495 implements four main changes to Ohio's firearm laws:

1. A common definition of a "concealed handgun license" is established for use throughout the Revised Code. According to the word count function on my word processor, this change eliminates just over 1,000 words from our statutes without changing the operation of any of the laws. It is a worthy accomplishment any time laws are made easier to read and understand.

2. A more common definition of "unloaded firearm" is adopted, bringing the Revised Code's language into line with common gun nomenclature. I lecture to over 250 concealed carry students per month, and I can say that the current Revised Code definition of "unloaded" is the single biggest surprise for most of these students. This change brings the law's wording into alignment with gun safety wording.

3. The Ohio Attorney General is given the ability to make, and publish, a determination that another state will, without written agreement, recognize Ohio's concealed handgun license in return for Ohio recognizing that state's concealed handgun license. This will have the same effect as entering into a formal written agreement with that state, thus expanding the number of states where Buckeyes can carry a handgun for self-defense.

4. The range competency requirement for a person wishing to renew their concealed handgun license for a second time is removed. By the time someone is renewing for a second time, they have been carrying a concealed handgun for almost 10 years. We know this person has not had any significant criminal/safety infraction during this decade, otherwise they would not be eligible for renewal.

I would like to extend my sincere thanks and gratitude to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association. As you can imagine, there is not always exact agreement between gun owners and these groups. However, I can say, enthusiastically and without reservation, that these groups have been willing, engaged, good-faith participants during the consideration of this bill. While no one has gotten exactly what they want in this bill, it is clear the bill and amendments you are voting on today are better products because of the careful consideration and input provided by all participants.

The three Democrats, all from urban areas in Cleveland and Columbus were unmoved with Buckeye Firearms Association testimony which showed a majority of self-defense shootings happen in the urban areas they represent. It's sad they don't seem understand that we are fighting to keep their constituents safe from violent crime that is more prevalent in their districts than more rural areas of Ohio.

"This is a common sense reform to Ohio firearms laws," said Jim Irvine, BFA Chairman. "This bill makes corrections to the definition of an unloaded firearm, eliminates a rarely-used competency check and streamlines reciprocity. It's puzzling that anyone would be against that."

We thank Chairman Wagoner, Vice Chair Larry Obhoff, Senator Faber, President Niehaus and the others who helped ensure we have a good bill headed to the Senate floor.

Time is extremely tight as tomorrow is expected to be the last day of the legislative session. The bill still requires a floor vote in the Senate, and then a concurrence vote on the House floor before they adjourn for the year. If the bill passes both these hurtles, it will head to Governor Kasich for his signature. Any bills not sent to the Governor die at the end of the year.

Just click here and enter your zip code to find your Senator's number.

Jim Irvine is the Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman, and recipient of the NRA-ILA's 2011 "Jay M. Littlefield Volunteer of the Year Award" and the CCRKBA's 2012 "Gun Rights Defender of the Year Award."

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