Legislators note opponents to HB45 (Restaurant & Car Carry Rules Fix) offer same tired claims, but no evidence to back them up

by Chad D. Baus

On Tuesday, February 22, the House Committee on State Government and Elections, which is chaired by BFA "A" -rated Rep. Bob Mecklenborg, held a third hearing on HB45, sponsored by Representatives Danny Bubp (R-West Union) and Terry Johnson (R-McDermott).

From the Gongwer News Service:

Statewide groups representing police chiefs, prosecutors and bar owners raised objections Tuesday to legislation loosening Ohio's concealed handgun restrictions.

The testimony from John Gilchrist, legislative counsel for the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, prompted the most reaction from Republican members of the House State & Local Government Committee who support the bill. The lawmakers mainly expressed concerns with what they viewed as a lack of data to back up the group's objections.

Mr. Gilchrist said his group opposes the two main components of the measure, which would allow the carrying of concealed handguns into establishments that serve alcohol and remove various restrictions placed on hidden weapons in vehicles.

"The association believes that allowing guns in barrooms, stadiums, taverns, restaurants and other businesses that sell alcohol will result in more gun violence," he said.

In 2003 Gilcrest also predicted that a shall-issue concealed carry law in Ohio would itself lead to increased gun violence. He was wrong then, which begs the question about why legislators should be expected to listen to him now.

But Gilcrest wasn't finished:

Regarding the vehicle-related changes, Mr. Gilchrist said they would "allow gun owners to have their firearms openly displayed, laying on the passenger seat or on the dashboard. Law enforcement officers in Ohio make millions of traffic stops a year. Allowing drivers to have ready access to their guns pose a greater safety sisk[sic] for these officers.

Gilcrest offered no explanation for why he believes Ohio officers would be in any more danger than officers across the rest of the country, since no other state has the type of egregious rules regarding concealed carry in a motor vehicle, nor are they experiencing any increased officer safety issues as a result.

It was Gilcrest's attempt to allege that concealed handgun license-holders are committing crimes that finally got the committee members riled:

Mr. Gilchrist suggested in arguing for more open records availability on permit holders that some offenders who should be stripped of their CCW licenses due to protection orders or other reasons aren't facing any sanctions because of the lack of such records, most of which were closed under the original law. As an example he noted that the Franklin County Sheriff's office only suspended two licenses and revoked one in the fourth quarter of 2009.

"Every business day the Franklin County courts issue numerous protection orders and it is illogical to believe that none of these protection orders are issued against licensees," he said. "In addition, the Franklin County courts also convict individuals of various felony offenses, misdemeanor offenses of violence, and other types of offenses that would constitute a disqualifying offense and yet in the fourth quarter of 2009 there were only two suspensions and one revocation."

Mr. Gilchrist's comments triggered some sharp questioning from Republicans including Rep. John Adams (R-Sidney), Rep. Ron Maag (R-Lebanon) and Rep. Ron Young(R-Leroy). Both questioned the witness' assertions given the lack of hard data.

Rep. Adams said he's been pulled over four times since CCW went into effect in Ohio and has never been asked about his permit. He asked Mr. Gilchrist why he couldn't provide more statistics to bolster his testimony.

"We would have them if we didn't have a statute saying they aren't a public record," Mr. Gilchrist responded.

Rep. Young said, "It does seem incredulous that the police chiefs have taken such a strong stance and they cite data....and yet they won't even provide statistics to you, their representative."

They aren't providing data, of course, because there are no data that back up their assertions. For too long unelected officials like John Gilcrest have been allowed to get away with presenting their rhetorical nonsense as fact simply because of who they are. It is good to see that is changing.

As Buckeye Firearms Association legislative Chair Ken Hanson points out, "John Gilchrist Esq. is the professional/paid lobbyist for the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP.) In Ohio, Chiefs of Police are unelected officials, most often appointed by a mayor or a city council. There is no direct accountability to the voters. The OACP has opposed every single piece of pro-gun legislation that empowers civilians, including the original concealed carry law. This time was no different. During his testimony in 2010, Gilchrist opined that statistics are "worthless" (thus the Senators should ignore any empirical evidence and/or what other states are doing.) He also spouted the same tired refrain that guns and alcohol don't mix, that licensees are a safety risk and that he wants licensee information to be public record. Gilchrist's justification for making the licensee records public is that no one is telling the sheriff when a licensee is arrested (i.e. the police aren't doing their job.)"

Another person offering testimony against HB45 on Tuesday was John Murphy, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association. While the OPAA representative said his group has no problem with the changes to the offense of improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle, he said they do object to the CCW leeway for liquor establishments.

"We agree with the police organizations that guns and alcohol do not mix," he said, noting restaurants and bars "can be especially dangerous because of the close proximity of large numbers of people, and in some cases many of those people are children."

"Nor are we aware of any statistics that support proponents' claims that current law restrictions have caused our restaurants and bars to become 'killing fields,'" Mr. Murphy added.

Rep. Maag disagreed, citing three violent incidents at establishments in Ohio, including those in which people were killed. "There are killing fields here in Ohio," he said.

Mr. Murphy argued that there's a hidden statistic that will never truly be known: the number of people who weren't killed in restaurants and bars due to the current restrictions.

"But if this bill passes, in the future, we might begin to learn a lot more about who these people are," he said.

"On balance, we believe that this bill will most certainly result in more tragedies, rather than less, resulting in the killing and injuring of more innocent people than will be saved by permitting the carrying of concealed and loaded firearms in bars and restaurants."

The problem with Murphy's concerns is that Ohio is not an island. To answer the question of whether or not allowing licensees to carry in places that serve alcohol creates an increased problem of violence, all legislators have to do is look at the 42 states (including every state that borders Ohio) to see that Murphy's concerns simply aren't backed up by reality.

"John Murphy is a professional/paid lobbyist that represents the Ohio Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (OPAA)," observes Hanson. "The OPAA is a group organized collectively to represent Ohio's 88 prosecuting attorneys, who are all elected officials directly accountable to voters every 4 years. OPAA also includes prosecutorial staff, such as assistant prosecutors and victim advocates. The group is funded with dues almost always paid from tax dollars, either from prosecutor's general funds or furtherance of justice funds (i.e. your tax dollars.)"

Again, from Gongwer:

Also testifying briefly in opposition was Jacob Evans, general counsel for the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association. He said the group is opposed to allowing CCW permit holders to bring their handguns into liquor establishments.

Mr. Evans failed to explain why OLBA members who have concerns can't simply post "no-guns" signs, as other businesses have a right to do, or why the current "Firearms Warning" signs which are mandated by law to be posted in their establishments, haven't prevented criminals from bringing in firearms.

The Gongwer story concludes by noting that two citizens testified in support of the measure.

Each time Ohio has moved to improve its self-defense laws, we are forced to endure Chicken Little predictions from the likes of Gilcrest, Murphy and Evans. And each and every time when we overcome their objections and pass a law, the sky does not fall.

And so it shall be again.

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

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