BFA Chairman Jim Irvine and Ohio AG Mike DeWine testify in favor of HB495 (Reciprocity & Concealed Carry Modernization)

by Chad D. Baus

Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman Jim Irvine offered proponent testimony on Representative Terry Johnson's (R-McDermott) House Bill 495 (Reciprocity & Concealed Carry Modernization) before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The committee hearing lasted until the early evening hours, and Irvine, having submitted more detailed written testimony and being the last to go, decided to shorten his oral testimony to a short message for committee members:

My name is Jim Irvine, testifying on behalf of BFA. I've submitted written testimony and I'm not going to read it to you.

I would simply like to point out that multiple groups have testified or submitted testimony today opposed to this bill. They are the same groups who testified against CCW 14 years ago. They have opposed every CCW bill ever since. I'm not going to take the time to offer a point by point rebuttal, but as you review their submitted documents, if anything causes concern, give me a call and I'll answer your questions.

This bill states that the AG "may" enter into agreements. Not that he shall. He still has discretion if he concludes it would be dangerous to honor licenses from some state.

In conclusion, HB495 is a common sense reform to our firearms laws. If you have any questions, I'll be glad to answer them.

Irvine's written testimony can be downloaded here.

As indicated in Irvine's closing testimony, the panel heard several witnesses testify in support and in opposition to the measure.

From Gongwer News' report on the hearing:

Charles LaRosa, an NRA-certified handgun instructor from Licking County, said the proposal would simplify Ohio's confusing and contradictory restrictions on transporting loaded firearms in vehicles.
He also expressed support for provisions that would expand concealed carry permit reciprocity with other states, noting that he was unable to carry his guns during a recent trip to Florida because Ohio lacks reciprocal agreements with Alabama and Georgia.

Toby Hoover, executive director of the Coalition Against Gun Violence, said the measure would essentially allow people with no firearms training whatsoever to carry loaded guns in their vehicles. Forcing Ohio to recognize permits from other states that might have much lower requirements "tramples" the ability to control Ohio's standards, she said. "I think you're giving something up."

Susan Reis, chair of the National Council of Jewish Women to Stop Gun Violence, said some states, like Alaska, Arizona, and Vermont, allow concealed carry weapons with no permits at all. "Why is the state of Ohio looking to the lowest common denominator? Are you hoping to eventually repeal all oversight of concealed carry licensees?" she asked. Ms. Reis urged the committee to listen to law enforcement groups that also oppose the bill. "If you were crafting policy relating to any other issue, you bring in the experts and listen to them. Why do you continue to ignore the experts on firearms and gun violence?"

Gary Witt, director of Ohioans for Concealed Carry, dismissed opponents' criticism of the proposal to recognize licensees from states that have no training requirements. "A state that has no training requirement, yet issues concealed handgun licenses has placed its trust in its citizens. Why should Ohio not trust citizens of a state when that state has placed its trust in its citizens?" he asked. Mr. Witt said gun control proponents also prophesied "doom, blood in the streets" prior to enactment of the concealed carry law and more recent legislation that allows licensees to carry in bars, but it didn't materialize.

Michael Weinman, representing the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, spoke in opposition, noting that states' require varying scrutiny in background checks and training requirements. The proposed change to carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle "poses a serious threat to the safety of the public and law enforcement officers," he said, noting that a gun and its magazine could be next to each other on the passenger seat allowing someone to quickly load and fire.

"The shooter knows what he intends to do, while the officer has to first interpret the actions of a stopped person and react accordingly," he said, noting that 68 officers were killed nationwide last year, a 15% increase over the previous year. Mr. Weinman said the bill would apply to everyone in Ohio and that CCW permit holder can already carry loaded guns in a vehicle.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine submitted written testimony in favor of the bill, and sent a member of his staff to answer any questions posed by the committee.

Excerpts from DeWine's two-page support letter follow:

As Ohio's Attorney General, I would like to submit my written support in favor of House Bill 495 which makes modifications to Ohio's firearms laws.

...Because the last provision of the bill, the "loaded" firearm definition, does not impact the operations of my office, I have declined to comment on that particular provision. Instead, I would like to focus my comments on the other key provisions – automatic reciprocity and what is required to demonstrate renewed competency with a firearm in order to renew the license.

As of the third quarter of 2012, Ohio has issued over 314,000 concealed carry licenses since 2004. Study after study has shown that concealed carry laws reduce crime because the bad guy faces a greater probability that his target is capable of fighting back. In his book, More Guns, Less Crime, economics researcher John Lott studied FBI crime statistics from 1977 to 1993 and concluded that the passage of concealed carry laws resulted in a murder rate reduction of 8.5%, rape rate reduction of 5%, and aggravated assault reduction of 7%. A 1999 study of CHL holders in Texas showed that CHL holders were always less likely to commit any particular type of crime than the general population, and overall were 13 times less likely to commit any crime. In short, we do not have any reason to fear the expansion of lawful concealed handgun license holders.

As part of the expansion of concealed carry laws, states have struggled with how to recognize other licensees from other states. A patchwork of laws arose. Initially, many states had no reciprocity requirements, and then states began allowing reciprocal agreements. The trend has been to eliminate the reciprocal agreement scheme in favor of mutual and automatic recognition of licenses the same way that states recognize a driver's license from another state. Importantly, licensees are responsible to know and obey the laws of the state they are in at that particular moment, regardless of what state's CHL is in their wallet. Expanded reciprocity of these licenses brings tourism dollars from hunting and outdoor sports particularly in Ohio.

Ohio should be a part of this expanded automatic scheme while retaining the flexibility to enter into written agreements with states that still require a written agreement under the old scheme. While some states have varying levels of training and thoroughness of background checks, we have nothing to fear from CHL holders who are obeying the laws of our state while they are here. I estimate that an automatic scheme will grant mutual recognition with eleven other states including Georgia which is a major transit point for both Ohioans traveling south and sportsmen traveling here. The states I would expect to add are Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Vermont.

The second issue I would like to address relates to the competency requirement for license renewals. The current law is vague and undefined and I urge you to eliminate the confusion.

Today, an Ohioan obtains a license to carry a concealed handgun under the scheme set forth in R.C. 2923.125(F) and (G). First, you take a class from a certified instructor that includes 10 hours of classroom training that covers certain topics followed by 2 hours of live fire range time. You are also required to take a written examination and physically show safe handling of a firearm. This class is comprehensive and is one of the most thorough in the United States.

The license you receive after your initial class is good for 5 years. At the end of five years you can renew that license once without additional training. That takes you out to a total of 10 years from your initial class. When you renew you license for the second time you do not have to take the class again but must instead present the sheriff with a "certificate of renewed competency certification." To get that certificate, you must show that you are "range competent." The problem is that there is nothing in the law that defines what range competency means. Sheriffs don't know how to implement this requirement, instructors don't know what to teach and the public is confused.

There is not a compelling need for recertification of CHLs at these time limits. I have heard the argument that citizens need the same training as police officers. Police officers require a significant amount of initial and yearly training in order to carry firearms. However, their situation is not comparable to the citizen concealed carry permit holder. Police are out actively enforcing the law and face the real danger of deploying their firearm every day. They are a constant target for the bad guy. Individually, license holders are not as great a target on a daily basis nor are they expected to be active interveners in an armed conflict. CHLs are occasionally in a position of having to defend themselves.

In sum, I support HB 495 and believe that it should be enacted.

DeWine's complete testimony can be downloaded here.

At least one more committee hearing on the bill, which has already been passed by the House passed in the House by a 59 - 28 margin, is expected next week.

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

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