Ohio House Representatives receive letters from BFA and concerned constituents upon return to Columbus

by Chad D. Baus

Ohio House Representatives returning from spring recess on Monday received a letter from Buckeye Firearms Association addressing the status of Ohio's Restaurant & Car Carry Rules Fix legislation (HB45/SB17).

The House version of the legislation, HB45, received five hearings in the House Committee on State Government and Elections before being passed on a 12-10 mostly party line vote. (One Republican, Rep. Richard Hollington [R-98], joined nine Democrats in opposition to the bill.) But more than six weeks have now passed without Republican House Speaker Bill Batchelder bringing the bill to the floor for a vote.

On April 13, the Ohio Senate passed their version of the bill (SB17) by a strong 25-7 majority. The bill is nearly identical to the House version, but it adds a provision to provide a way for people who were convicted of improperly transporting a firearm under the current law to receive relief if they would have been in compliance under the law as amended in SB17. Both bills now await the attention of the Republican-dominated House, but the Speaker has said his 59-member caucus is unable to muster the 50 votes necessary for passage.

The text of the Buckeye Firearms Association letter to legislators follows:

Dear Representative XXXXXXXXX:

We are writing today to ask for your vote in favor of HB45/SB17 and HB54/SB61. These are the same bills that, last session, passed the Senate by a large bi-partisan majority and passed a discharge petition vote in the House. Recently, again, these bills passed the Senate by a veto-proof, bi-partisan majority.

To those who support these bills, your constituents, over 210,000 Ohio concealed handgun license holders, nearly a million hunters and millions of licensed visitors to the Buckeye State thank you.

To those who are wavering in their support, you should reconsider. For many years, anti-gun groups have predicted mayhem and death when bills we support pass. 6+ years of experience with lawful concealed carry prove the opposite. Carry into a facility that serves alcohol will be no different. For those of you who consider yourself pro-self-defense, but are considering voting against HB45/SB17 for emotional reasons, please consider the following:

HB45/SB17 is not radical or new; it is mundane. Similar laws have been in effect in 40+ states for many years, including every state bordering Ohio. The people/groups who are predicting mayhem if these bills pass are the same who falsely predicted mayhem if HB12, HB347, SB184, and other bills we have supported, passed. You know they were wrong then. You know they are wrong now. If you travel outside of Ohio, you have been dining next to armed citizens for over a decade now.

For those who are voting against HB45/SB17 because "guns and alcohol don't mix," understand that HB45/SB17 does not mix guns and alcohol. In fact, a strict, felony-level separation is imposed.

For those who question how this separation will be enforced, our answer is simple: the exact same way it is enforced today. It is currently illegal to carry a firearm in a Class D facility. It is currently illegal to carry a firearm under the influence of alcohol. In point of fact, according to the testimony of the FOP, not even police officers carry firearms in Class D facilities if they are drinking. If it is not a problem to enforce the current law, it is not rational to say that it will be a problem to enforce HB45/SB17.

HB45/SB17 still allows the private property owner of the establishment to ban firearms from their private property. This would apply even to police officers, so long as the officer is not on "official police business." The reality is that current law deprives private property owners of their private property rights - if they want to allow firearm carry, they are unable to do so. HB45/SB17 would restore private property rights by allowing the property owner to make the decision, pro or con.

I am aware that some legislators believe that rank-and-file law enforcement is opposed to these bills. Not true. We have had numerous officers, even police chiefs, tell us "Don't listen to the (FOP, Ohio Chiefs of Police, etc.), we support firearm rights." Contrast this with the FOP or OACP, who always begin their testimony against firearm rights bills by saying, "...our organization is not anti-gun..." Really? What pro-gun bills have these groups testified in favor of in Ohio for the past 20 years? (Here is a hint: none.)

We have the utmost respect for our men and women in police uniform. Even if you doubt us, you should understand the structure of the legal relationship between citizens and law enforcement, expressed so eloquently four years ago by BFA's Ken Hanson.

"Law enforcement is granted their authority and power over citizens by we, the people. We are perfectly within our rights to curtail that authority as we see fit, and it is not up to them to second guess that decision. Their powers come from us; our rights do not come from them."

We know some will vote against us. We are, however, very concerned with those who have said, at election time, they are with us, only now to say "we were with you before we were against you." We hope to count every Representative among our friends so that, come next election, we may expend the full might of our resources to your re-election, rather than your defeat.

Because, rest assured, if you have previously represented to us that you will vote for the changes contained in HB45/SB17, and your vote is other than "yea," you will have moved from our "friends" to our "foes" list. By way of example, see the attached BFA response regarding one Representative's attempts to "have it both ways."

Please call me if you have any questions or concerns about firearms bills before voting against freedom.

James Irvine, Chairman

The attachment contained a tearsheet which featured a copy of an advertisements taken out by BFA in two newspapers that serve the district of Rep. Matt Lundy (D), revealing that Lundy had lied on his 2010 candidate survey by promising to vote for the legislation in order to win a good grade and an endorsement, but then having reversed course within weeks after being in office. The tearsheet also contained headlines from some of the media coverage that resulted, including an editorial from the Lorain Morning-Journal entitled "Our view: Lundy's duplicity over endorsement should be a concern to voters."

The Ohio Liberty Council, a coalition of local TEA party and 912 groups, has also gotten involved in the efforts to hold legislators accountable to their campaign promises. The organization is asking its members and supporters to email their Ohio House Representative to request a "yes" vote, and also to email Governor John Kasich, Republican Party Chair Kevin DeWine, and Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder "to request that Restaurant Carry (HB 45/ SB17) and Restoration of Rights (HB 54/SB61) be brought to a vote in the House immediately."

Last year, the Ohio Senate passed identical legislation to HB45, and 57 House members voted to bring the bill out of committee and to the floor for a vote, only to have then-Speaker Armond Budish (D) run out the clock by refusing to call another session. Pro-gun rights voters and other freedom-loving Ohioans gave control of the House back to Republicans in the November elections, and expected the bill to sail to easy passage this time around.

More than 40 other states, including every state that borders Ohio, recognizes its citizens' right to bear arms for self-defense in restaurants that serve alcohol.

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

Contact your Representative NOW and say you want the House to vote on our pro-gun bills immediately.

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