HB 20 (Rule Modification for Concealed Carry in School Zones) reintroduced by Rep. Gonzales

On December 4, 2014 the Ohio House of Representatives passed Rep. Anne Gonzales' (R-Westerville) House Bill 454 by an 81-2 vote. Gonzales' bill sought to correct several problems with current law regarding concealed handgun licenses' behavior in school zones. In the waning days of the lame duck session, the bill's language was inserted into HB 234 in the Senate, but Republicans in the Senate Civil Justice Committee amended the language back out at the last minute before passage.

The bill has now been reintroduced in the 131st General Assembly as HB 20, and is co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Kyle Koehler, Wes Retherford, Ron Young, Stephen D. Hambley, Steven W. Kraus, Jeffery S. Rezabek and Jonathan Dever and by Democrat Heather Bishoff.

Current law is a mess, making it a felony offense for those with a concealed handgun license (CHL) to partake in normal activities while in possession of their firearms. It is currently illegal for licensees to drop off their spouse, a child’s lunch or medicine, sign their child out of the nurse’s office, or even to get out and hug their little girl if she falls and scrapes her knee. Rather than requiring that the license-holder remain in the vehicle, HB 454 would require that the firearm be remain locked in the vehicle. The bill also makes it clear that it is permissible to pick up or drop off any person or item, as opposed to just “a child.”

In a press release issued after House passage of her bill last session, Gonzales said “this is common sense legislation that makes the current code easier for CHL holders to understand. By clearing up this section of code, we can cut down on the confusion and make the section easier to follow and enforce.”

According to the press release, the idea for the bill came to Rep. Gonzales’ attention following an incident that occurred at an elementary school in New Albany. A father, who was a concealed handgun licensee, was picking up his daughter after school. After exiting his vehicle, another parent spotted the holstered handgun and called police. Despite determining that no law had been broken, law enforcement expressed the concern that state law as it currently stands is unclear and poorly worded. Therefore, Gonzales is seeking simply to remove language in statute that is unnecessary and establishe clear, unambiguous parameters regarding how firearms must be secured.

Given its uncontroversial content and already proven bi-partisan support in the House, this bill should move quickly in that chamber. Its fate will then, once again, be left up to Republicans in the Senate, and opponents will once again be left explain why they believe a father dropping off forgotten gym shoes to his child, or a mother picking up a child who has come down with a fever, should continue to be considered as felons if they have a concealed handgun license and leave their loaded firearm in their car on school property.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, BFA PAC Vice Chairman, and an NRA-certified firearms instructor. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website.

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