Ohio's Law Enforcement Dilemma

By Gerard Valentino

Ohio’s concealed carry law was stonewalled for years by the opposition of the Ohio State Highway Patrol administration who refused to endorse any law that allowed law-abiding citizens to carry loaded guns in cars. After years of debate, public opinion overwhelmed the State Patrol’s opposition and Ohio finally got a concealed carry law.

The State Highway Patrol administration was successful, however, in using its lobbying power to poison the legislation with the now infamous “open car carry” provision. This provision requires license holders to keep their gun holstered in plain sight while in a vehicle. No other state has such a ludicrous provision in their concealed carry law and many even allow guns to be carried in cars without a license.

Although the Highway Patrol could not point to one instance where a legally carried gun was used against law-enforcement, they still insisted that guns in cars need to be carried in plain sight. In an ironic twist of fate since Ohio became the 46th state to allow legal concealed carry, more State Patrol Officers have been charged with murder than license holders. However, the State Patrol’s administration hasn’t lobbied for restraining the possession of handguns for off-duty patrol officers.

Now as HB347 which removes the ludicrous open carry provision makes its way through the Ohio legislature, the State Highway Patrol is once again using its lobbying power in opposition to legislation that would make all Ohioans safer. Their actions are more than likely at the bidding of disgraced Governor Bob Taft who did his best to keep concealed carry from ever becoming law in Ohio.

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Taft’s decision to break repeated campaign promises to support viable concealed carry in Ohio is one of the reasons his approval rating sits at an embarrassing 15%. His credibility was further damaged when it became apparent that he was using the misguided opposition of the State Highway Patrol as a reason veto proposed legislation that did not include the now discredited “open car carry” provision.

In contrast to the politically motivated opposition of administrators, rank and file law enforcement officers support the right of law-abiding citizens to legally carry guns. They also realize that it is the job of law enforcement agencies to enforce and uphold the laws, not make them.

Once law enforcement administrators are put in a position to lobby for specific legislation it makes them the equal of run-of-the-mill special interest groups. As we know, it is the job of special interest groups to get laws passed that benefit their small group, not society as a whole. That is exactly the case with the State Highway Patrol’s politically motivated decision to oppose allowing concealed carry in vehicles.

In the case of HB347 it appears the State Highway Patrol is more concerned with saving face rather than admit that their pet provision is a failure for law enforcement officers who can’t enforce the poorly written statute.

Other law enforcement agencies like the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association already admit that concealed carry in vehicles is not a threat to law enforcement. They took the time to research how concealed carry is administrated in other states, and found proof that how a gun is carried in a car has no bearing on officer safety. This proves further that the State Patrol administration is motivated by concerns other than officer safety.

Accepting the opposition of one politically motivated law enforcement administration as a viable excuse to veto concealed carry legislation also puts Governor Taft’s decision making ability in question. Of course, Taft’s 15% approval rating is indicative of the confidence Ohioans have in his leadership abilities as a whole.

The same question arises about the State Highway Patrol administration’s decision making ability. Their willingness to ignore the success other states have had in allowing legally concealed guns in cars shows they see Ohio’s citizens as less than trustworthy. This is a sad state of affairs considering their position as public servants.

Perhaps instead of preaching to Ohioans and the rank-and-file law enforcement officer, the State Highway Patrol administration should consider the will and safety of the very people they are sworn to serve.

Gerard Valentino is the Central Ohio Chair for the Buckeye Firearms Association.

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