FLASH: Firearm law changes contained in final budget bill

House Bill 1, the two year budget adopted by the Ohio General Assembly, contains some changes to Ohio's firearm laws. These changes are the result of meetings held between gun owner groups and stakeholders in the law enforcement community.

Since the final budget bill is not "engrossed" yet, we are unable to provide an exact copy of the modified laws at this time. However, we are able to provide this summary of the changes contained in the Bill that will be presented to the Governor for signature:

  1. The initial application fee for a concealed handgun license is increased to $67 from $55 for the 5-year license.
  2. The renewal application fee for a concealed handgun license is reduced to $50.
  3. A new “renewal application” form and process is implemented, wherein the applicant will only be required to fill out the application back to the date of their last application, or in most cases back 5 years.
  4. The Sheriff will only have to run background checks on renewal applicants back to the date of their last application, or in most cases back 5 years.
  5. The "Attorney General Pamphlet" will no longer be published in hardcopy form. Instead, the pamphlet will be available for free on the internet in .pdf format for use by instructors and licensees. The requirement that the sheriff "provide" an applicant the pamphlet is removed from the law.
  6. With regard to "unloaded transportation of firearms" under R.C. Section 2923.16, the law now specifically acknowledges that ammunition loaded in enbloc clips or stripper clips is NOT considered loaded in a "magazine or speed loader" for the purposes of determining whether a firearm is unloaded.
  7. The allocation of the application fee between various law enforcement agencies is fixed in statute, ensuring which agency will receive which portion of the fees, thus eliminating any possible "administrative increase" in license fees.

[UPDATE: The official version of the budget bill is now online]

BuckeyeFirearms.org readers will likely remember the furor over a fee increase that was inserted in HB450 last December. This outrage resulted in the bill being "un-passed" and the fee increase removed. The changes listed above are the result of six months of discussions held over how the fee increase issue would be handled, and the gun owners receiving needed changes in return for the increase. These changes, and exchanges, addressed the concerns that caused the fee increases to be revoked last December.

The issue over fee increases arose when the cost of background checks increased, thus decreasing the portion of the application fee the sheriffs received. Gun owners rightly pointed out that no legislative authorization existed with regard to how much Ohio charged the sheriffs for the background check, and this loophole was an open-door invitation for abuse via administrative increases that received no scrutiny. This compromise in the budget: 1.) caps the rate for background checks, 2.) sets the allocation of the application fees between the sheriffs and the state, 3.) increases the initial application fee by $12 to compensate for the increased background check cost, and 4.) decreases the renewal fee by $5 under current rates, and $17 under the new rates, in recognition of the decreased work done during the renewal background check under the new law.

While no one looks forward to increased fees, or to paying fees to exercise a right to begin with, this resolution will actually result in a net decrease in licensing fees for the typical Ohio firearm owner over the "life" of their licensure, while simultaneously eliminating the absurdity of requiring the licensee, once every 5 years, to list every residence they have held since age 18.

The elimination of the attorney general pamphlet in hardcopy will be a detriment to some instructors and some licensees, but it is the trend of government to "go green" and eliminate printing costs in times of tight budgets. The pamphlet is still available, and will continue to be updated, but the licensee or instructor will have to print out their own copies from the web.

The final change, specifying that enbloc clips and stripper clips DO NOT NEED TO BE UNLOADED prior to driving to the shooting range, is a welcome boon to Ohio's competitive shooters, passed at the same time the opening shots are being fired at Camp Perry. Almost every shot fired during the national matches is loaded in an enbloc clip or a stripper clip, and this needed clarification could not be more timely.

The exact effective dates of these changes are a little murky. Usually the budget bill goes into effect immediately after signature and filing on budgetary matters, but only after 90 days for non-budgetary items. The fee increases and decreases are clearly budgetary, but the corresponding changes in application forms and background check process is not purely budgetary, yet one cannot go into effect without the other. Add to this the fact that the Governor has not yet been presented the bill for signature, as it will take time to engross the final version of the bill for his signature, and there will be some uncertainty over effective dates in the next weeks. Rest assured that we will bring you the effective dates just as soon as the Governor signs and the engrossed bill is official.

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