SB239 and SB247: Two bills whose time has come
by Jim Irvine
Recently two crucial bills passed the Ohio Senate. One deals with critical improvements for concealed license holders (CHL). The other corrects a defect in Ohio law which has resulted in court orders being null and void and good people losing their right to defend themselves, even in their own homes.
Let us start with SB247 – the Restoration of Rights bill. Imagine that you are a hunter, concealed handgun license (CHL) holder, a gun collector, or police officer. You have been passing background checks, legally buying guns and carrying them for self-defense or hunting for years. Years ago a court reinstated your firearms rights. The judge and the prosecutor agreed that you are a good person who would use them legally, and so you have, maybe for decades.
Then you get a letter in the mail from the BATFE explaining that due to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, your court order was null and void. You must immediately surrender all your firearms or face prosecution for a Federal felony possession with a five year prison sentence. For too many Ohioans, this is no fantasy – it's real life.
SB247 is a technical fix to a law that worked well for years, but was found defective almost two years ago. The fix will essentially allow Ohio law and courts to function just as they have for years prior to the Supreme Court ruling. There are no groups opposing SB247 and the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association has backed the measure.
SB239 seeks to revise Ohio law in two ways, both of importance to those with a CHL. It seeks to eliminate the restrictions on where and how a gun may be carried in an automobile for those carrying with a CHL. It will also allow a license holder to carry in a restaurant that serves alcohol, but only if that license holder is not under the influence of alcohol and is not consuming any alcohol.
Despite the fact that we are simply aligning Ohio law with what is common in the rest of the country, and indeed remains far more restrictive than many states, including a majority of bordering states, the opposition to this has been fierce from the state Fraternal Order of Police and newspaper editorial boards.
The editorial boards are easy to understand. In general, they are opposed to anything Buckeye Firearms Association or the NRA are supporting. They will not let the facts get in the way of a good fear campaign and seem determined not to learn about an issue they seemingly love to complain about. Alas, with their declining subscription numbers, one wonders why anyone bothers to read their opinions on anything.
The police groups' and legislators' opposition to the bill has been surprising to me. For them, ignorance is not an excuse. They know the law. They know that license holders have done a great job complying with Ohio's complicated and confusing firearms laws. The job of the police has been made more difficult by the fact that, because license holders must leave their firearms in their cars while in an establishment which serves alcohol, criminals have been handed a gun as a "bonus" for stealing a car or car stereo. So much for wanting to keep guns away from criminals.
The opposition to SB239 has been loud, but the arguments are painfully misleading. While void of factual information, they are the exact same "blood in the streets" type of arguments that we heard in the years leading up to concealed carry becoming law in Ohio. One can understand the concerns that Christopher Columbus would "fall off the edge of the earth" in the 1480's. From today's perspective, we know that is a laughable notion. Likewise, we know that the emotion-based lies of the anti-freedom cry babies to be as baseless as the predictions of Columbus' "flat earth" detractors.
Ohio prides itself on being a good destination for tourism. As summer approaches we will welcome visitors from many other states who come to Ohio for fun, entertainment and relaxation. These visitors find our laws confusing because no one (except possibly Bob Taft) ever thought these restrictions made any sense in the first place.
The Republican-controlled Senate took much too long to pass these needed reforms, and by the time they at long last finished their job, the Democrat-controlled House only had a day or two remaining in session before the left for the summer. While we share your frustration that Speaker Budish and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives did not address our concerns before adjourning for the summer recess, and in all likelihood until after the November election, we must also note that we were asking them to skip the normal hearing process and amend our bills into some other piece of legislation that has already gone through the process.
Both Ohio residents and our visitors deserve better. We will continue to work with Speaker Budish and other leadership to express the importance of our issues, and to have them brought up for a vote at the earliest possible moment when legislators return. To that end, it is important that all legislators have positive interactions with gun owners at campaign events or town hall meetings while they are back in district.
Jim Irvine is the Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman.