A DECADE IN THE WORKS

Concealed handgun bill on way to Governor's desk

January 8, 2004
Gongwer News Service

COLUMBUS -- A bill allowing Ohioans to carry concealed handguns is heading to Governor Bob Taft's desk following the General Assembly's approval of a compromise allowing greater media access to names of permit holders.

The decade-long debate apparently having run its course, the measure (HB12) cleared both chambers with only one opposition speech delivered by Rep. Lance Mason (D-Shaker Heights), who was also the lone vote in opposition on the six-member conference committee that met earlier in the day. The Democrat said he was philosophically opposed to the concealed-carry concept and was especially concerned with a provision regarding the transport of handguns in vehicles.

The bill cleared the House 69-24 and the Senate 25-8 with no debate. Mr. Taft said he would sign it given the House had acquiesced to his demands, including a broader provision for media access to permit lists.

"While I would have preferred that the public have full access to the information, I believe that this is a reasonable compromise that will hold the permit system accountable for compliance with the law," Governor Taft said in a prepared statement. The bill, he added, "balances the Second Amendment rights I have strongly supported with public safety and public records concerns. I look forward to signing it."

The conference panel amended the bill to allow journalists access to county-maintained lists of permit holders, but the general public will still be barred from reviewing the documents. The first conference report on the bill allowed the media to review the permit status of only one individual at a time.

The Legislative Service Commission described some technical changes in the conference report as clarifications of sections dealing with temporary emergency permits.

The bill's passage left many interested parties wanting for more - or less in the case of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, which is considering a referendum on the issue. Ohioans For Concealed Carry members are worried the disclosure provisions go too far and will inhibit permit acquisitions. Conversely, the Ohio Newspaper Association is concerned that the public access isn't broad enough.

Somewhere in the middle is the National Rifle Association. State Liaison John Hohenwarter Jr. said his group's aim was to get a law on the books and go from there if further changes are warranted.

Rep. James Aslanides (R-Coshocton), the bill's sponsor, said in conference committee and during a short floor speech that he would lead an effort to roll back the media access if the "privilege" is abused. "If they abuse the privilege, we can cause them to lose the privilege," he declared, pointing out that the Pennsylvania Legislature struck a similar provision after a newspaper published a list of permit holders.

Senator Marc Dann (D-Youngstown), who had attempted to amend the bill similarly in the prior conference committee, said Mr. Aslanides shouldn't be worried about journalists doing their job. He said it was "not appropriate or necessary to offer any promises or threats" relative to the provision.

Mr. Aslanides, who along with other supporters had been stung by Mr. Taft's relatively late change of position on public records that had included a veto threat, also remained leery that the governor would follow through on his promised signature. Prior to a vote in the conference committee to adopt the report, the chairman asked Elise Spriggs, Mr. Taft's director of legislative services, to restate Mr. Taft's intentions.

The governor himself said later, "I have strongly advocated for a bill that includes mandatory training, strict background checks and support from law enforcement groups; and recently, have demanded that the law allow public access to permit holder information so that we can ensure that the right people are getting permits, and that the wrong people aren't.

In the latter stages of negotiations on the measure, issues such as the storage of handguns in vehicles and affirmative defense were worked out to the satisfaction of law enforcement groups. Maintaining a position he had held on a similar measure in the last General Assembly, Mr. Taft had said early in the process that he would veto a measure that wasn't backed by statewide law enforcement organizations.

The bill requires background checks and training to qualify for four-year permits, which must be issued by county sheriffs as long as the applicant is not mentally ill. Ohio would honor permits from other states, of which 45 already have concealed-carry laws.

While the law would allow the carrying of hidden guns in most public areas, they would be banned from bars, school zones, government buildings and daycare centers.

Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said he didn't expect the law to be changed to address concerns that the restrictions applied to liquor establishments were too broad and included many restaurants. Citing a trend in Michigan, he reiterated his belief that the law would make Ohio safer by inhibiting criminal activity and that detractors would be proven wrong.

"We asked law enforcement from other states (with concealed-carry laws) to come in and tell us what the problems were. Literally we couldn't get them to come in and tell us what the problems were because they hadn't had a lot of problems," Speaker Householder said. "I think you're going to see a deterrent to crime in this state, and that's the whole purpose behind this bill."

The final compromise on the bill was achieved due to a rare procedural move in which the House reconsidered the prior conference committee report adopted by both chambers, then rejected it. The bill had remained in the speaker's office unsigned since Dec. 10.

Media coverage of yesterday's events:

Akron Beacon-Journal: What applicants must do before carrying a concealed weapon

Cincinnati Enquirer: Concealed carry bill awaits Taft - Governor says he'll sign it

Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Concealed-weapons bill heads for Taft's desk
and
Key points of bill

CNSNews.com: Concealed Carry Bill Passes in Ohio

Columbus Dispatch: Conceal/carry bill passes; gun debate far from over

Dayton Daily News: Conceal-carry bill awaits Taft signature

Gannett News Service: Gun bill gets green light

Lorain Morning Journal: Weapons deal has Taft blessing

Ohio Public Radio: Compromise Concealed Weapons Bill Passes House and Senate

Toledo Blade: Gun bill headed for Taft’s signature

Townhall.com: Concealed Carry Bill Passes in Ohio

Zanesville Times Recorder: Local residents, sheriff think bill will be beneficial

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