ranks Ohio low among gun-rights friendly states

by Chad D. Baus

Friends and acquaintances in political circles who are unfamiliar with our state's gun laws are often surprised by my lack of absolute zeal for the Ohio Republican Party. To them, the Republicans are the pro-gun rights party, Democrats are the anti-gun rights party, and that is the end of the discussion.

For gun owners, however, especially ones who follow the matter closely, there is another question. We aren't just interested in who pays lip service to support for gun rights, or who is generally less likely to propose anti-gun rights legislation. We're also expecting that candidates who so enthusiastically espouse support for gun rights during their campaigns will then turn those words into action once they are elected.

To be fair, Ohio has made some progress in the past decade since concealed carry became law - most under Republican leadership. But as two recent articles have shown, we still have a long way to go to restore Ohioans' gun rights. And in my opinion, given the domination of Ohio politics by the "pro-gun rights party" for much of the past two decades, we ought to have far more to show for it.

Last spring, released its examination of Best States for Gun Owners in 2013. States were measured on gun rights/friendliness to gun owners by the following criteria including their laws addressing CCW/Open Carry, Modern Sporting Rifles, Class 3/NFA firearms, Castle Doctrine/Stand Your Ground laws, as well as whether or not there are any restrictions on gun or ammunition purchases or magazine capacity, pending pro- or anti-gun legislation, CCW reciprocity, and any restrictions on guns that are not covered in the other categories.

After all these years of Republican leadership, Ohio ranked 35 out of 50 among Best States for Gun Owners in 2013. notes that open carry is not legal in a motor vehicle, that Castle Doctrine is restricted to one's residence or vehicle, and that that Ohio's concealed carry law requires 12 hours of training.

This fall, has gone back and examined the states specifically on the issue of concealed carry, and have just released their list of The Best Concealed Carry States in 2013. States were measured on their method of issuance (Permitless/Unrestricted, Shall-Issue, May-Issue, or No-Issue/Restricted). Other factors included reciprocity, training time, application fees, Stand Your Ground/ Castle Doctrine laws, duty to inform, state-wide preemption of local gun control laws, and issuance of licenses to non-residents.

After all these years of Republican leadership, Ohio ranked 39 out of 50 among The Best Concealed Carry States in 2013. notes that "Obtaining a Shall-Issue license in Ohio requires more training than virtually any other state, with 12 hours of required training. Licensees are also required to immediately inform law enforcement upon contact. Reciprocity with other states is mediocre, and does not allow for residents to legally carry into their most proximate neighbor to the east, Pennsylvania."

Fortunately, there is a bill currently under consideration in the legislature that would address many of these concerns. House Bill 203, sponsored by State Rep. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott), seeks to make many improvements to Ohio's concealed carry laws.

The bill would strengthen the background checks required to obtain an Ohio Concealed Handgun License (CHL). Under the bill, Ohio concealed handgun license (CHL) applicants would be a National Instant Check System (NICS)-compliant background check, making it compatible with more states. This improvement will also help prevent people with mental health disqualifiers who have been entered into the federal database from obtaining a CHL.

The bill would also move Ohio to an automatic reciprocity system, relieving the Attorney General from needing to sign agreements with every state to facilitate reciprocity. The Attorney General would still be permitted to sign agreements if needed, but the bill seeks to streamline the process and open up agreements with states like Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Georgia that Ohio doesn't currently have agreements with.

"Reciprocity remains a critical issue for people with a CHL," said Jim Irvine, Chairman of Buckeye Firearms Association. "Background checks have been a hot topic since the Newtown killings, and ours has some issues that should be addressed. This bill makes sure people with disqualifying offenses are not issued CHL's, which helps open up reciprocity agreements. This is something everyone should be happy about."

The bill would also update the requirements and disqualifications to obtain an CHL. Currently there are different standards to possess a gun under federal and state law, and different still to obtain a CHL. HB 203 harmonizes Ohio law with federal law so that someone who is prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm will not be issued a CHL. Ohio would also be able to issue licenses to out-of-state residents, something many other states already do.

Under the bill, the current topics required for Ohio CHL training would remain, but the mandate that an instructor spend 12 hours covering the topics that can be covered adequately in less time would be deleted.

"Ohio has one of the nation's most egregious training requirements to obtain a CHL," observed Irvine. "Other states have seen that more people get training when the state requirement is reduced. We are strong advocates of training and want to see more people become trained in the safe use of firearms. This bill facilitates that goal."

Finally, HB 203 seeks to modify the state's self-defense law. Current law specifically states that a person has no duty to retreat before using deadly force if that person is in their own home or automobile. HB 203 would expand that to anyplace that a person lawfully has the right to be.

"The law should not impose specific 'duties' on people whose lives are in jeopardy," observed Sean Maloney, BFA Region Leader and a Cincinnati-area attorney. "It should protect the innocent, and their right to defend their own life from criminal attack. The bill would not otherwise change the threshold to use lethal force in defending one's life."

HB 203 is a collection of common-sense firearms law reforms. It also corrects problems with our current background checks and brings Ohio laws more in line with federal laws. It continues Ohio on a path to improving our laws by making life easier for the law-abiding gun owner.

We know the words will come next year, when many are running for reelection. But right now it is high time for action on House Bill 203 in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

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

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