''Gun panel'' working on substitute bill; Looking to vote in two weeks

Gongwer News Service - A Senate committee that has heard extensive testimony on a measure (HB 12) that would specifically permit gun owners to carry their weapons in a concealed fashion expects to have a substitute bill prepared for consideration next week and could call for a vote the following week, its chairman said Tuesday.

Senator Steve Austria (R-Beavercreek), chair of the Senate Judiciary on Criminal Justice Committee, said he the committee will be addressing three key issues – property owners’ ability to restrict guns; carrying weapons in vehicles and affirmative defense – in the new version of the bill.

He said, however, that the committee appears to be split on how to handle those issues. Negotiations, the senator said after the panel’s meeting on Tuesday, are ongoing with Sponsor Rep. Jim Aslanides (R-Coshocton), House leaders and officials from Governor Bob Taft’s office.

His comments came after a relatively brief meeting at which witnesses called for a wide range of changes in the bill – from making technical changes to enacting a more wide-open Vermont-style weapons law. Because the tide of witnesses appears to be slowing, Chairman Austria canceled the panel’s meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

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Dennis Walker, president of the Ohio Constitution Defense Council, urged the panel Tuesday to drop requirements regarding the disclosure of social security numbers; maintain the local government pre-emption clause and preserve the affirmative defense language in the bill.

Brenda and Kenneth Kill also testified as interested parties. Ms. Kill, while supporting a separate concealed weapons measure that would implement the Vermont plan, said that state has not seen the development of a "Wild West" environment that gun control advocates predicted. The wheelchair-bound witness added that carrying a weapon would give her confidence that she could protect herself from attack. "There’s no way I could defend myself from a thug," she said.

Mr. Kill argued that any effort the state makes to restrict gun owners right to carry their weapons infringes on constitutional rights. "I know it’s illegal now (to carry a concealed weapon), but I don’t care," he said. "I don’t need your permission."

Mr. Kill urged lawmakers to brush up on their knowledge of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. "Politicians seem to ignore the plain, simple statements of the founders," he said. If lawmakers want to address issues associated with weapons, he said they should do so by changing the constitution, not the law.

Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) challenged the witness to explain why it is so crucial that Ohioans have the ability to carry concealed weapons when they already have the ability to carry weapons in plain view. Mr. Kill said anyone carrying a plain sight weapon would be arrested for inducing panic.

Senator Fedor also expressed frustration with some groups publishing information on the Internet criticizing lawmakers’ understanding of the issues involved in the debate. "It’s become offensive when we are thought upon as not being smart enough to understand," she said.

As a parting shot, Mr. Kill also offered criticism of the security level at the Statehouse, where visitors now can enter the building through just a handful of doors that are constantly monitored by of the State Highway Patrol officers. “By the way, the security’s terrible in this building,” he said. "I could have brought a cannon in here."

OFCC PAC Commentary:
When providing instruction to those wishing to testify before the committee, we always remind witnesses that these Senators deserve our utmost respect, due if only to the elected position they hold.

We also remind witnesses to remain level-headed and unemotional. To loose control, or to be disrespectful in a hearing, is to risk creating this thought in a Senator's mind: "can I really trust this person with a concealed firearm?"

No OFCC witnesses offered verbal testimony on Tuesday.

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