Lucas Co. sheriff's deputies proven to be unaware of certain provisions in Ohio's CCW law

Demand for out-of-state licenses proves need for passage of HB495

by Chad D. Baus

Although Ohio's concealed handgun license law has been in place since April 2004, it appears the folks at the Lucas County sheriff's office are just now discovering some of the finer details of the law.

From The Toledo Blade:

Lucas County sheriff's deputies recently responded to a call of a man with a gun.

What they encountered took some sorting out: The jogger was a local man with a gun under his shirt who produced an Ohio driver's license and a concealed-carry permit issued from the state of Florida.

It was a circumstance that took officers off guard. Although recognizing that permit holders have a right to carry a concealed weapon, it was unclear if the Florida license satisfied Ohio law.

Since the very beginning of Ohio's concealed carry law, the Attorney General has been authorized to enter into reciprocity agreements with other states. Then-Attorney General Marc Dann (D) signed an agreement with Florida on April 9, 2007. But Ohioans have been able to obtain a Florida non-resident license and use it to carry in Ohio since concealed carry became legal here in 2004. That Lucas Co. sheriff's deputies are still unaware of these facts more than eight years later is disconcerting, to say the least.

While the problem with the sheriff's deputies is most certainly one that came about from a lack of training, that isn't stopping the Assistant Lucas Co. Prosecutor from joining gun control proponents in criticism of the law.

"I don't think the people of the state of Ohio understand that other states can dictate who carries a gun in Ohio. By us signing this reciprocity agreement, we're allowing Florida to tell us who in Ohio can carry a gun," said Assistant Lucas County Prosecutor Jeff Lingo, chief of the office's criminal division.

"If you live in the state of Ohio and laws of the state of Ohio govern your conduct, why shouldn't you be required to get an Ohio permit?"

...Toby Hoover of the Coalition Against Gun Violence said that although permit holders start out as law-abiding citizens, "they don't always stay that way." She condemned attempts to update the concealed-carry law, calling the proposed changes a "weakened" version of the requirements.

House Bill 495 would amend Ohio's concealed-carry laws. It was recently approved in a 57-26 vote of the House but has not been considered by the Senate.

In essence, the legislation "authorizes the automatic validity in Ohio of a concealed handgun license issued by another state as long as that jurisdiction recognizes Ohio's license without the need for a reciprocity agreement," according to the office of State Rep. Terry Johnson (R., McDermott), who sponsored the bill.

The bill also changes the definition of "loaded firearm in a vehicle" to mean that a gun is loaded when the magazine is inserted into the gun. Loaded now means the magazine is in the vehicle.

Further, it eliminates the demonstrated competency requirement for a second license renewal. Competency training is not required for a first renewal.

Ms. Hoover said she is concerned about the proposed changes because they open Ohio to "accepting the lowest common denominator" of concealed-carry permits.

"It's a slippery, creeping slope that ends up with fewer and fewer restrictions on those who want to carry concealed guns," she said. "...I just question why that man in [Lucas County] got a permit in Florida. Probably because he wouldn't get one in Ohio."

Note that Lingo and Hoover sound warnings, but failed to provide examples of any problems which suggest the eight year-old reciprocity provision in Ohio law which accepts out-of-state licenses should be restricted.

As for Hoover's assertion that people obtained out-of-state licenses to carry in Ohio because they can't qualify for an Ohio license, let me simply say that there is a far more reasonable explanation.

Ohio's law, especially in its early days, was cumbersome, not user-friendly, and the license was not recognized in many states in which Ohioans wanted to be able to travel in. The problem was so pronounced, thanks to the insertion of several Bob Taft (R) -inspired poison pills, that Buckeye Firearms Association Legislative Chair Ken Hanson authored an article entitled "Friends don't let Ohio friends carry on a non-resident permit."

Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said there are a number of reasons Ohio residents apply for and receive out-of-state licenses. He said his organization strongly recommends that all Ohio residents receive an in-state license but said he understands why some don't.

The main reason gun owners obtain out-of-state licenses is that places such as Florida have reciprocity agreements with more states than Ohio, so a traveler is legal to carry in more states, he said. Other reasons include avoiding the possibility of news media publishing lists of permit holders.

There are some, he acknowledged, that may apply in other states to avoid Ohio's training requirements.

To obtain a permit in Ohio, a person must undergo 12 hours of training and pass a written and practical exam as well as a background check. In a state such as Florida, a license may be given to qualifying people who have passed a background check and an approved firearms or hunters' safety course.

Mr. Irvine said although he is an advocate for training, he believes that it is Ohio's strict training requirements that make permits inaccessible to many because of the time and financial burdens.

Recognizing that concealed-carry permits can be a polarizing issue, Mr. Irvine said the goal of the states should be to create laws that won't hinder law-abiding gun owners.

In short, market forces are at work, and when consumers can't find a product of their liking, or when customer service is lacking, they will shop elsewhere.

"You're still going to have the criminals out there," Irvine reminded The Blade. "...People who carry concealed handguns, they stay updated on the law. If they don't and screw up, they go to jail."

While CHL-holders strive to stay abreast of the law, details provided in The Blade article suggest Lucas Co. sheriff's deputies may need to boost their knowledge of yet another area of the law.

A Toledo attorney familiar with the jogger case is quoted as saying that the officers confiscated the jogger's firearm "until he proved [the license] was [valid]." While this fact got no additional attention in the article, the confiscation points another area of the law which Lucas Co. sheriff's deputies may need additional training:

According to Ohio's CHL law, it is illegal for police to confiscate a CHL-holder's firearm at the termination of the stop if he is not charged with a violation of the CHL statute or arrest the person for any offense.

ORC 2923.12.(H) If a law enforcement officer stops a person to question the person regarding a possible violation of this section, for a traffic stop, or for any other law enforcement purpose, if the person surrenders a firearm to the officer, either voluntarily or pursuant to a request or demand of the officer, and if the officer does not charge the person with a violation of this section or arrest the person for any offense, the person is not otherwise prohibited by law from possessing the firearm, and the firearm is not contraband, the officer shall return the firearm to the person at the termination of the stop.

In addition, a provision contained in SB184, which became law in 2008 and is more popularly known for establishing Ohio's Castle Doctrine law, requires that when a firearm is seized or surrendered to law enforcement, it shall be identified and stored in a manor that it can be returned to the person in the same condition as when it was seized. It further specifies that the court "shall award reasonable costs and attorney's fees to the person who sought the order to return the firearm" if law enforcement fails to return a firearm when ordered (ORC Sec 2923.163).

At the end of the day, while the law has been improved significantly since 2004, the continued use of out-of-state licenses, to whatever degree, proves there is demand in Ohio for a license that is more user-friendly (i.e. reduces cumbersome training requirements and eliminates complicated renewal processes) and which is recognized in more states.

If Ohio legislators wish to reduce the demand for out-of-state licenses, they should continue the work of improving our law to make it more user-friendly. The Ohio House has already acted on the next step by passing HB495, and the Ohio Senate should move the bill this fall and send it to the governor's office for his signature.

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

UPDATE: While the news department delivered a well-balanced article yesterday, today's Toledo Blade editorial, entitled "Hidden Guns", is what we've come to expect from the anti-gun editorial board.

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