House committee adopts Sub HB 142 (Modify LEO notification); Chair signals vote coming soon

On Tuesday, September 12, the House Federalism & Interstate Relations Committee, chaired by Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson), reviewed and adopted a substitute version of Rep. Scott Wiggam's (R-Wooster) House Bill 142.

As originally introduced, HB 142 sought to eliminate the requirement that, when detained for a law-enforcement purpose, a concealed handgun license (CHL) holder must "promptly inform" an approaching law enforcement officer that the licensee has a CHL and is carrying a concealed handgun. The bill also sought to remove criminal penalties associated with failure to comply with the notification requirements, including the possibility of having a concealed handgun license suspended.

Under the substitute bill, the law would instead be modified to require that, if asked by a law enforcement officer for a driver's license or state-issued ID, a CHL holder must also display the person's concealed handgun license or documents demonstrating the person to be a qualified military member with the driver's license or state ID, or orally inform the officer or employee, at the same time as displaying the driver's license or state ID, that the person has been issued a concealed handgun license or is authorized to carry a concealed handgun as an active duty military member, and disclose that the person then is carrying a concealed handgun or has a loaded handgun in the motor vehicle.

The substitute bill also specifies that failure to comply with the notification requirement described above is a minor misdemeanor and that the offender may be subject to a fine of not more than $25; plus it removes the possibility of having a concealed handgun license suspended for failure to comply.

The Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association's Executive Director Robert Cornwell said the changes create for license holders "a clear line of distinction as to when they are required to notify the law enforcement officer that they are a licensee.

"This clarification will benefit all those concerned," he wrote. The group remains neutral on the bill.

Also from coverage of the hearing by the Gongwer News Service:

The Buckeye Firearms Association gave the substitute bill its blessing, writing that the measure is "good legislation which solved problems which have existed since the first days of concealed carry in Ohio."

"It is good public policy which eliminates vagueness and protects both license holders and law enforcement," BFA's James Irvine wrote.

In 2015, a study by ConcealedNation.org revealed that Ohio was in a vast minority of states that makes such a requirement of concealed handgun license-holders.

The idea for repealing or modifying the notification provision has been the subject of frequent discussion since June 2011, when Canton police officer Daniel Harless was caught on dash cam video threatening to execute a concealed carry licensee because he felt notification did not happen in time.

The case against the CHL-holder was eventually thrown out of court, and his civil rights suit against the City of Canton was settled out of court.

Harless was fired. He later tried to get his job back, and eventually was given $40,000 from the city, a neutral employment recommendation and a retired-officer ID in exchange for his resignation.

The notification provision isn't just objectionable because of this one case. This author has often told the story of the time when I was witness to an injury car accident and stopped to render first aid. Upon law enforcement arrival (several officers, one at a time, over the course of several minutes), I was forced to stop rendering aid to repeatedly inform each new officer on the scene of the fact that I was carrying, since I was a witness to the accident and being detained for a law enforcement purpose. One officer, finally recognizing the stupidity of my legal obligation, told me he would make sure anyone else who arrived knew.

The most recent attempt to remove the duty to promptly inform was introduced by Reps. Ron Maag and Andy Thompson back in 2011. Republicans in control of the legislature failed to move the bill.

HB 142 is co-sponsored by Representatives Becker, Brinkman, Conditt, Dean, Goodman, Hood, Keller, Kick, Koehler, Lipps, Merrin, Roegner, Seitz, Thompson, and Vitale.

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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