How "gun-friendly" is Ohio?

I guess the answer depends on what you are comparing Ohio to. In 2004, Ohio joined the growing ranks of states that enacted laws enabling their citizens to carry concealed firearms. As of 2014, all states now permit some form of concealed carry. Only in the District of Columbia is this right still denied, although this may change soon as a result of a recent court ruling. As of the end of 2013, approximately 570,000 Ohioans had been issued concealed carry licenses. Still, the state does not rank that high in comparison to other states when it comes to being "gun-friendly."

GunsandAmmo.com has done an annual survey comparing the states over the past few years. The factors they consider include whether concealed carry and/or open carry of firearms are permitted, concealed carry reciprocity with other states, if modern sporting rifles are allowed, if citizens can possess Class III/National Firearms Act (NFA) firearms, whether the state has a “Castle Doctrine”/“Stand Your Ground” law, if there are ammunition and/or magazine restrictions, if there are limits on the types of firearms that can be purchased, if there are pro-gun or anti-gun legislation being considered, etc. In 2013, Ohio ranked 35th out of 50 states. In 2014, that ranking dropped to 36th. Some of the reasons cited for the low rankings include limitations on Ohio’s Castle Doctrine, the fact that reciprocity only exists with 33 other states, the state’s 30-round magazine capacity limitation, etc. Indeed, in the latest survey all of the states surrounding Ohio got higher scores — Pennsylvania-31, Michigan-28, Indiana-24, West Virginia-23, and Kentucky-6).

For 2014, there was some progress. For instance, the use of rifles chambered in “straight-walled pistol cartridges” was authorized for use in hunting. This was a significant advance for hunters, especially given the broad definition of "straight-walled pistol cartridges."

On the legislative front, pro-gun legislation was proposed and passed in the State Assembly, but was held up in the State Senate until after the November election so that it wouldn’t become a “political issue” for either political party in Ohio. It did eventually pass and was signed into law by Governor Kasich in mid-December. The new rules become effective 90 days after he signed the bill, on March 23, 2015. Among the changes that were approved are:

  • Allows the use of sound suppressors on guns for hunting in Ohio.
  • Chief Law Enforcement Officers in each jurisdiction will be required to sign-off (“Shall Issue”) on National Firearms Act (NFA) applications if the applicant is not otherwise prohibited from owning or possessing the item — fully automatic weapons, sound suppressors, short-barrel rifles/shotguns, etc. (Previously Ohio’s law was “May Issue” in this regard.) Federal laws still apply.
  • Reduces the amount of training required to obtain an Ohio concealed handgun license (CHL) from 12 hours to 8 hours, including 2 hours of range time. Classroom training can now be accomplished on-line rather than in person. (This change will allow individuals to complete the NRA’s Basic Pistol Course on-line — when that becomes an option — rather than having to take it from an instructor. Live range training must still be obtained from a qualified firearms instructor.)
  • Instructors from any national gun advocacy organization may now teach Ohio concealed carry classes.
  • Ohio CHLs remain valid until their expiration date for individuals that move out of the state. Previously they expired immediately upon an individual moving to another state.
  • Non-residents working in Ohio may now obtain an Ohio CHL from the county or adjacent county to where they work.
  • Minor misdemeanors will no longer disqualify individuals from obtaining an Ohio CHL.
  • The FBIs NICS system will be used to perform Ohio CHL background checks.
  • DD Form 214s remain valid proof of firearms training for military personnel for 10 years now rather than the former 6 years.
  • Sheriffs may now use CHL application fees for firearms-related training.
  • Ohio residents can now purchase long guns in any state. Previously they could only purchase long guns from states bordering on Ohio.
  • The 30-round limitation on magazine capacity has been deleted. Prior Ohio law indicated any firearm with more than 30 rounds in it was considered to be an “automatic weapon”.
  • Possession of firearms in municipal parking lots will not be considered a trespass violation. State-owned parking lots already were treated this way. There is no change for privately-owned parking lots.
  • Ohioans can carry with a non-resident license in Ohio as long as the state that issued their non-resident license has reciprocity with Ohio.

Also, as a result of these changes to Ohio law, reciprocity with other states should improve - not to mention Ohio’s “gun friendly” score when the next survey results come out.

Despite the best efforts of some communities like Cleveland to enact restrictions on the possession of firearms, Ohio does have a preemption law that states only the State Legislature is authorized to enact firearms laws in Ohio. In addition, the right to “keep and bear arms” is guaranteed in Ohio’s constitution.

Hunting is quite popular in Ohio, although it does not have the same “holiday” sense as deer hunting season does in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Utah. Probably the relative lack of state-owned property for hunting is responsible for this.

Ohio has a lot of nationally-recognized firearms instructors and training facilities. The Tactical Defense Institute (TDI) near West Union is one of the top training facilities in the United States. Top instructors like Dave Spaulding, Ken Hackathorn, Chris Cerino and Rob Pincus are based in Ohio and travel across the nation and around the world providing firearms training. Other nationally-known firearms instructors like Tom Givens and Dave Grossman often come to Ohio to offer their knowledge and experience to help Ohioans improve their self-defense skills.

Following the Sandy Hook tragedy, there were calls for increased gun control from across the nation. Ohio did not succumb to this. Instead Ohio increasingly allowed school teachers, administrators, and staff members to receive training and to carry firearms in their schools when their respective school boards approved. The Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response (FASTER) program sponsored by the Buckeye Firearms Foundation and taught at TDI is nationally recognized.

There are numerous public and private shooting ranges scattered around the state. In the Dayton region alone there are at least a half-dozen state-of-the-art indoor shooting ranges.

Competitive shooting — IDPA, USPSA, SASS, CMP, Trap/Skeet, etc. — is also popular in Ohio. Just about any type of competitive shooting event can be found every weekend somewhere in the state. The national firearms championships are held annually at Camp Perry on the shores of Lake Erie and have been for over 100 years. Up until a few years ago the American Trap Association’s national championship — the Grand American — also took place in Ohio (Vandalia) before moving to Sparta, Illinois.

Firearms manufacturing also takes place in Ohio at companies like Ithaca, Hi-Point, Ohio Ordnance Works, etc. Major distributors like MKS Supply, the distributor of
Chiappa Firearms in the US, are located here as well. Accessory manufacturers like MTM Products are also located in Ohio.

Ohio is also the home to the Buckeye Firearms Association, one of the strongest defenders of the Second Amendment and advocate for gun rights in the nation, second only to the National Rifle Association itself.

And let’s not forget about the Ohio Gun Collectors’ Association (OGCA), the world’s oldest and largest organization of gun collectors.

So, is Ohio gun-friendly? Yes, but there is always room from improvement. Everything could change if anti-gun politicians gain control of the state’s government, so citizen vigilance is required.

Gary Evens is an NRA-Certified Instructor and Range Safety Officer.

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