House & Senate committees hear testimony in favor of pro-gun legislation

by Chad D. Baus

Two bills that would modify restaurant and car carry rules for Ohio concealed handgun license-holders, and a bill that seeks to align Ohio law with federal statutes regarding the restoration of rights to Ohio firearms purchasers, received hearings on Tuesday in the General Assembly.

The House Committee on State Government and Elections, chaired by BFA "A" -rated Rep. Bob Mecklenborg, heard proponent testimony Tuesday on HB45, sponsored by Representatives Danny Bubp (R-West Union) and Terry Johnson (R-McDermott). Representatives from Buckeye Firearms Association were on hand for this, the bill's second hearing in the House.

A number of people, including two who represented Ohioans for Concealed Carry, offered supportive testimony. Perhaps the most pertinent testimony was offered by Joe Ballman, a person who was attacked by an armed robber as he left an establishment that had a liquor license. Ballmer's testimony follows:

In the course of these proceedings, you will undoubtedly hear much conjecture regarding what may happen if you allow people to carry firearms into establishments that have liquor licenses. You'll hear that doing so will increase violence that innocent people will be shot, and when it is pointed out that this law will still require the concealed carry holder to refrain from alcohol consumption, you will be asked why anyone would go into a bar and not consume alcohol.

Rather than engage in conjecture and "what if's," I'd like to tell you about something that actually happened, to me. Imagine me, not as I stand before you today, but as a twenty-four year old husband and father of a baby girl. One June evening thirty years ago, I agreed to accompany my brother in-law to a bar to celebrate some event in his life, and as was my custom; I was drinking water with lemon. When we left, we got into my car and as I was about to put the key into the ignition, a man pulled the door open on the passenger side, pointed a gun at us and demanded our valuables. We immediately complied. Then, he told us that he was going to kill us.

What followed was the longest 60 seconds of my life. There I sat, strapped into my car by my seatbelt, unarmed, my brother in-law virtually catatonic from fear. I could think only of my wife and daughter and I determined that I would survive to see them again, or that I would die fighting.

I attempted to disarm the man, and managed to grab the barrel of the gun with my right hand and push it against the windshield of the car and hold it there while I reached across my body and fought him with my left hand. We struggled for what seemed an eternity, thoughts of my wife and daughter spinning wildly in my head. In that moment I questioned the meaning of life and death, I questioned the humanness of humanity, I questioned my faith in God. Then, he regained control of the weapon. He pointed it at my face from inches away and I knew at that moment that I would never see my family again. The weapon failed to fire and my assailant ran off into the night.

Ladies and gentleman, I do not carry a gun because of irrational fear. The incident above taught me that as much as we like to deny it, we are all only a breath away from death's door at any given moment, and potentially at the mercy of predators that are usually younger, stronger and better prepared for a fight to the death than we are. I believe that self defense is the most basic of human rights. I know from personal experience that fighting an armed man with your bare hands is a losing proposition. I was not drinking that night, I do not drink now. I have not been in a bar in thirty years. However, I also do not eat in restaurants that have liquor licenses as under Current Ohio law, that would require me to go about unarmed, something that I feel is not prudent and which I do only when absolutely necessary.

I ask that you consider this bill favorably. As more than forty other states with similar laws have found, doing so will not increase violence and bloodshed. It will allow concealed carry license holders who are some of the most law-abiding, sensible, cautious, and responsible people in the state to provide for their own security when they are having a meal at a restaurant that happens to serve alcohol. Perhaps, it will prevent someone else from experiencing the nightmare scenario that I just described to you.

The House has not yet announced when its next hearing on this important legislation will be held.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Criminal Justice, which is chaired by BFA "A+" -rated Sen. Tim Grendell, heard sponsor testimony on an identical bill that is expected to move swiftly in the Senate, SB17. (The Senate passed an identical bill last session by a significant margin.)

From The Columbus Dispatch:

The committee also heard testimony from the sponsor of Senate Bill 17, which would allow those with concealed-carry gun permits to bring their weapons into restaurants and bars - as long as they aren't drinking.

Sen. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, said Ohio is one of six states out of 48 that issue concealed-carry permits where gun owners cannot take their weapons into bars and restaurants.

He said his bill "does not allow a concealed-carry holder to consume alcohol while carrying" and "will not change current law that prohibits a person from possessing a firearm while under the influence of drugs or alcohol."

Earlier yesterday, a House committee heard supportive testimony on a mostly identical bill.

A similar measure failed to pass in the last General Assembly session, but this one is considered to have a better chance since Republicans took over both chambers at the beginning of the year.

Chairman Grendell said he expects to call a vote on the bill within the next two weeks. "Hopefully the house will get it right this time."

Grendell's committee also heard testimony on SB61 (sponsored by Senator Jason Wilson [D]). This was the bills' first hearing in the Senate, which passed an identical bill last session by a significant margin.

From the Gongwer News Service:

Sen. Jason Wilson (D-Columbiana) asked members to endorse his proposal (SB61) to clarify that provisions of law regarding the restoration of firearm rights apply to all types of firearms.

A federal review found Ohio doesn't cover weapons described as "dangerous ordinances," he said.

Firearm rights are often restored by judges in situations involving nonviolent offenders and said those rights are almost always denied if objections are filed by prosecutors, he said. However, Ohio doesn't allow for "complete restoration" because it omits dangerous ordinances.

He noted that the bill drew bipartisan support in the Senate last session, but didn't clear the House.

The sponsor also told Sen. Grendell that enactment alone wouldn't constitute reinstatement. He said a judge would have to reinstate the right after the bill becomes law.

An identical bill, HB54, received its first hearing this morning in the House Committee on Criminal Justice, which is chaired by BFA "B*" -rated Rep. Lynn Slaby.

Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman Jim Irvine stated, "We are pleased to see renewed efforts to refine and improve Ohio's current firearm laws. The General Assembly has legislation that address the most pressing issues facing those who legally own guns in Ohio. HB45 and SB17 would allow licensed citizens to carry concealed firearms in restaurants and fix burdensome car carry rules. HB54 and SB61 would align Ohio law with Federal statutes and protect citizen rights. We hope the legislature moves quickly to pass both, and are encouraged by legislators' assurances that Governor Kasich will sign the bills."

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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