100,000 expected to seek [licenses]

Sheriffs brace for gun applicants
Dayton Daily News
April 2, 2004

COLUMBUS | As many as 100,000 Ohioans are expected to apply for licenses to carry concealed handguns in the six months after the state's concealed-carry law takes effect next Thursday, Attorney General Jim Petro said.

Petro on Thursday said he expects 95 percent of those who apply to qualify. His office prepared the pamphlet applicants must read before applying for licenses.

Under the law, sheriffs in Ohio's 88 counties will issue licenses to those 21 or older who meet certain requirements, including 12 hours of training. Applicants also must pass background checks and pay a $45 fee. Licenses will be good for four years and can be renewed.

Applicants can be disqualified for reasons including specified criminal convictions, mental incompetence and being subject to a protection order for domestic violence.

If an applicant meets the qualifications, the sheriff must issue the license within 45 days of receiving the application.

Sheriff's officials in the Miami Valley said they're getting ready for a flood of applications and are hoping for the best. Montgomery County Sheriff Dave Vore said his office is on track to be ready by Thursday.

Vore said he does not anticipate any problems.

"We're just hoping for the best and trying to prepare," he said. Montgomery County applicants should report to the front window of the sheriff's new offices at 345 W. Second St., across from the jail, Vore said.

Greene County sheriff's Lt. Melissa Litteral said the county is ready, but she hopes people will "bear with us."

"We anticipate a high volume of applications," Litteral said.

Litteral said that sheriffs in some counties may set up appointments for applicants, but that Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer, like Vore, has decided not to take that approach, at least at the beginning. Litteral said Fischer is committed to getting the applications processed on time.

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Robert Cornwell, executive director of the Buckeye State Sheriffs' Assocation, said sheriffs would set the time when applications will be accepted.

Petro said that forms have been sent to probate courts and hospitals to be used to build a database to determine mental competency of applicants. An applicant must not have been adjudicated as a "mental defective, been committed to any mental institution, be under a current adjudication of incompetence, have been found by a court to be mentally ill subject to hospitalization by court order and not be an involuntary patient other than one who is a patient only for purposes of observation."

Petro said the database would only have records starting Thursday. However, sheriffs have the authority to review past records to determine if any of the mental incompetence provisions apply, he said.

Cornwell said sheriffs would try to make this kind of background check for each applicant.

The law also permits sheriffs to issue temporary emergency licenses if applicants provide sworn statements that they are in imminent danger and a sheriff determines the applicant is not prohibited from having a license. The license would be for 90 days and could be renewed once every four years.

Once the law begins, so-called affirmative defenses that in effect allow some people to carry concealed weapons for reasons, such as working dangerous jobs that make them susceptible to criminal attack, will expire, Canepa said.

Petro said he thought that courts would be understanding if a person who now uses such a defense continued to carry a concealed weapon while awaiting a temporary emergency permit.

Also, Petro and his aides said legal challenges might arise over whether concealed weapons may be carried in public places such as parks. The law includes a list of places where concealed weapons may not be carried, including law enforcement stations and offices, airport terminals, school zones (including schools), mental institutions, colleges and universities, places of worship, establishments where alcohol is dispensed, and government buildings. The law does not specifically prohibit carrying on public property around a public building, however, Petro said.

The law gives journalists — but not the general public — access to the complete list of license holders maintained by county sheriffs. This will include the name, county or residence and date of birth of each person issued a permit.

Gov. Bob Taft signed the law Jan. 8, ending a 10-year effort by concealed-carry supporters.

The starting date for the law comes just after Americans for Gun Safety, a Washington, D.C. gun-safety group, this week released Department of Justice Data that showed Ohio had the nation's second highest number of mistaken background-check approvals, allowing hundreds of criminals to buy guns. The group blamed faulty and incomplete records.

Petro said the state system for issuing concealed-carry licenses would be different from the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System used to determine whether someone qualifies to buy a gun.

Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, has said the study points out the problems with background checks that her group tried to show while unsuccessfully opposing the concealed-carry law in Ohio.

Jim Irvine, a spokesman for Ohioans for Concealed carry, said the problem is small "compared to the number of people who can use a gun to defend their lives."

Ohio will be the 46th state to have a concealed-carry law, Petro said.

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