Restaurant & Car Carry Rules Fix legislation (HB45) passes House committee

[Editor's Note: This article was updated throughout the afternoon of March 15 as new information became available.]

A bill that would make critical improvements to Ohio's concealed carry laws has passed out of the House Committee on State Government and Elections. The committee, which is chaired by BFA "A" -rated Rep. Bob Mecklenborg, passed HB45 with a 12-10 mostly party line vote (the only Republican to join the Democrats in opposition to the bill was Rep. Richard Hollington [R-98]). Rep. Randy Gardner was absent.

The bill now moves to the full House, where a floor vote is needed before it moves over to the Senate.

HB45 would make long-sought improvements for concealed carry license-holders in Ohio. The first addresses restrictions on concealed carry in motor vehicles. Currently, the State of Ohio highly regulates licensed carry, unlike any other state. This places undue restrictions and burdens on Ohio citizens. It is particularly difficult for visitors from other states who have never had to deal with restrictions as convoluted and confusing as current Ohio law. Under HB45, a license-holder will be able to carry a loaded handgun in a vehicle - period.

The other change will allow license-holders to carry guns in restaurants that serve alcohol as long as they are not intoxicated. Even with this modification, Ohio law would still be far more restrictive than most states, including our border states that allow consumption by license-holders. HB45 is a zero tolerance bill and clearly does not "mix guns and alcohol," as many newspapers and anti-freedom groups say. To be legal in a restaurant, license-holders may not consume any alcohol, and may not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Before the bill passed, seven hostile amendments were defeated, each of which were offered by Democrats.

Four anti-gun amendments were offered by Rep. Bill Patmon (D-10), a Cleveland-area legislator who was by far the most outspoken member of the committee in attacking people's right to carry a gun to defend their lives. Three more bad amendments were offered by Rep. Matt Lundy (D-57), who up until now had established a solid pro-gun record. It is frustrating that he ran such hostile amendments without ever taking the time to contact Buckeye Firearms Association about his concerns.

As we reported last week, Representative Rex Damschroder (R-81) had also circulated a proposed amendment. However, Damschroder withdrew it and it did not receive a committee vote. It would be unfair to categorize Damschroder's amendment as hostile, as he was attempting to address real issues and clarify Ohio law on the topic of "under the influence." After discussion with various interested parties, and further testimony from law enforcement, it was agreed that HB45 as currently drafted was better than any of the less than perfect solutions being proposed by anyone. We thank Representative Damschroder for working with others to make the bill better, and for recognizing the complexity of the situation and the withdrawal of his amendment. Damschroder voted for the unamend bill.

"This is a good day for gun owners who live and travel in Ohio," said Jim Irvine, chairman of Buckeye Firearms Association. "Two of the most pressing problems facing license-holders are addressed in HB45 and these changes will make Ohio a safer place to live by reducing the places criminals can steal guns."

"We thank the thousands of individuals who have called or emailed their Representatives. Your voices are being heard. We look forward to a House vote and hopefully a quick journey through the Ohio Senate on the way to Governor Kasich's desk."

Committee Chairman Robert Mecklenborg (R-30) said, "I am glad we were able to pass HB 45 intact and without amendments. This bill will enable law abiding concealed carry permit holders to more fully exercise their second amendment rights."

A floor vote could be coming this week. We've been working on this legislation for 3 years. There have been more than enough hearings. Now it's time to ACT! And we need to show OVERWHELMING support for these bills without delay.

Contact your Representative NOW and make it clear you want our bills passed with no amendments and no more waiting. This is URGENT.

CLICK HERE to send an email or call and make your voice heard.

We can't do this without you. We have to let our legislators in the House know that these are good bills for Ohio and we want them passed into law WITHOUT any restrictive amendments.

Following is a press release from the bill's primary sponsors:

Bubp's and Johnson's Concealed Carry Legislation Passes from House Committee

COLUMBUS—State Representatives Danny Bubp (R-West Union) and Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) have announced that House Bill 45—which amends Ohio's concealed carry laws to make them simpler and consistent with other states—passed from the House State Government and Elections Committee.

Specifically, House Bill 45 will simplify the provisions related to the carrying of firearms in vehicles by eliminating the "micromanaging" provisions that dictate where a gun must be stored in a vehicle, which allows law-abiding citizens to avoid accidental violations. It retains the current procedures that are followed when a licensee is pulled over and approached by a law enforcement official.

The legislation would also permit license holders to carry in establishments that serve alcohol provided that the individual is not consuming alcohol or under the influence of alcohol, but maintains existing penalties for violations. Private establishments would still have the authority to prohibit concealed carry on their premises.

"House Bill 45 is an important step in providing a safe, legal environment for Ohio's law-abiding citizens with concealed carry permits," Bubp said.

"It is important that Ohio's concealed carry laws are comprehensive and in line with those of other states," said Johnson. "Lawful concealed carry licensees in Ohio who have followed the rules and been responsible gun owners should have similar rights and liberties as licensees in other states."

Of the 48 states that issue concealed carry licenses, Ohio is one of only a handful of states that prohibit individuals with a concealed carry license from carrying in a restaurant where liquor is served. This legislation was originally introduced during the previous General Assembly as Senate Bill 239, which received the support of the National Rifle Association, the Buckeye Firearms Association and Ohioans for Concealed Carry.

House Bill 45 will move to the House floor for a vote.

Following is coverage of the hearing from the Gongwer News Service:

With only one defector, majority Republicans by a 12-10 vote reported the measure that brings concealed weapons a step closer to reality in bars and other public arenas, unless owners ban them.

Republicans, with a 13-10 majority, systematically tabled nine Democratic amendments, most of which would have altered the bill in various ways to reduce places or circumstances for allowing concealed weapons in establishments where liquor is sold.

Rep. Patmon first moved to table the bill before moving on to amendments. He cited various conflicting statistics that have been given during testimony and proposed a study by the committee for a solid set of figures, proposed making exception to bars in urban areas such as his in Cleveland, suggested banning concealed weapons in sports arenas ("I don't get it. Why do you need your .357 magnum to go to a baseball game?"), and proposed a "zero tolerance" of blood-alcohol level for permit holders in liquor establishments. Rep. Lundy proposed allowing businesses to opt-in rather than opt-out of the bill's provisions and banning concealed weapons in casinos and other establishments with gambling equipment.

In each instance, Chairman Mecklenborg offered explanations why none of the amendments was needed. He said he was told by casino owners, for example, that all would prohibit guns as they are authorized to do. He had noted at the outset that all the amendments or the basis for them had been discussed extensively at last week's hearing in particular and in general during earlier hearings.

Rep. Gerberry, said he supports the Second Amendment, as did all the other Democrats who weighed in with comments if not amendments, complained that the partisan vote, with only Republican Rep. Hollington voting against the measure, does not show who supports gun ownership.

Democrats offered the most objections. Rep. Clyde said "Some bills go too far. This one is poor public policy." Rep. Lundy said all rights have their limitations, such as not being allowed to drive 100 miles an hour. "We have a real issue of guns and alcohol mixing." Rep. Patmon said, "We're voting for convenience over public safety."

In defense of the bill, Rep. Young attributed to George Washington a comment that "Guns and society are great assets to civility."

Rep. Letson, a gun owner, said he's "supporting my policemen, my judges, my prosecutors" who oppose the bill. Rep. Buchy bluntly countered," House Bill 45 is about protecting families." Rep. Mecklenborg said that "a fair number of police and prosecutors throughout the state favor this bill" but have not been heard through lobbying groups.

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