Ohio concealed handgun licenses numbers on the rise, but opponents of reforms remain despite success of program

by Chad D. Baus

The Dayton Daily News is reporting that in the eight years since Ohio passed a concealed weapons law, county sheriffs have issued 296,588 concealed handgun licenses, with more than half of those coming since President Barack Obama was elected.

Despite the obvious popularity and success of the law, the DDN provides quotes from local law enforcement bureaucrats who are expressing concerns about pending legislation intended to improve the law, making it more user-friendly.

From the article:

Gun laws are in a spotlight throughout the country as Florida's Trayvon Martin case and the presidential election heighten debate over who can carry concealed weapons, where they can carry them, and when they can use them for deadly force.

In Ohio, where the legislature in recent years has eased restrictions on concealed-carry, even over the objections of some law enforcement groups, a battle is being waged over just where to draw the line.

Five bills currently pending in the Ohio General Assembly would allow permit holders to carry their weapons in state-owned parking garages — such as below the Ohio Statehouse — loosen permit renewal requirements, eliminate required gun safety training and background checks and automatically expand the system for recognizing CCW permits issued by other states.

Gun advocates had been working with Ohio lawmakers to pass a "Stand Your Ground" law similar to what Florida has, said Jim Irvine, spokesman for the pro-gun Buckeye Firearms Association, though he noted that the Martin case "put a chill on it."

The 17-year-old Martin was shot to death in Florida on Feb. 26 after an encounter with armed neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, 28, who faces trial on a charge of second-degree murder.

Irving [sic] said the gun lobby in Ohio has been successful for two reasons.

"Number one is the facts are on our side," he said. "We were the last state to adopt concealed carry so we were not breaking any new ground here. The other piece is gun owners, particularly concealed carry owners, are politically active."

Despite the overwhelming success of Ohio's self-defense laws, Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl told the newspaper he finds pending legislation "scary."

After reviewing the current bills being proposed in Ohio, Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said, "Some of them are scary."

Biehl, Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer and Miami County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Dave Duchak singled out two bills — House Bill 256 and House Bill 422 — as particularly troublesome.

HB 256 would eliminate background checks and gun safety classes required for concealed carry permits, while HB 422 would repeal the requirement that a permit holder who is pulled over in a traffic stop alert law enforcement that he or she has a loaded weapon.

"Those two are bad law in a significant way," Biehl said.

...Duchak said the HB 422 could put both law enforcement officers and permit holders at risk.

If an officer is not informed and sees a gun "that person is going to be getting drawn down on," he said. "That potentially puts the CCW holder in jeopardy."

"This bill not only keeps the officer unsafe but it is completely unsafe for the permit holder."

Did you catch that? According to Duchak, he (and potentially other Miami Co. deputies) will draw and aim their loaded firearms at any citizen they see exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms, even if they are in every way following the law.

A comment later in the article by Sheriff Plummer that "if you get in a shootout and people aren't overly trained on accuracy, you are going to have bullets flying all over the place" leaves this reader wishing for comment on data regarding how many rounds his officers have fired and how many hits they get.

Duchnak and Plummer's "scary" predictions are interesting, given that they readily admit later in the article that past predictions made by opponents to improving Ohio's gun laws have been entirely wrong:

Overall, said Plummer, the concealed carry law has "worked out just fine."

"We haven't had any cases where anybody has committed a crime that had a permit," he said. "And we haven't had any cases where anybody has interceded in a crime that has a permit."

Duchak agreed.

"In Miami County our officers come in contact with CCW permit holders all the time and I can only think of one occasion where there was somebody who was intoxicated," he said. "They have all been very responsible law-abiding people and they have not had any issues. The vast majority of people are doing it for personal protection."

While these men deserve credit for telling the truth about the success of this law, it bears noting that Plummer is absolutely wrong when he says that no CHL-holder has interceded in a crime in the Dayton area. No less than six incidents have been recorded by Buckeye Firearms Association, and the entire list of incidents of Ohio CHL-holders acting in self defense can be viewed here.

The article also focuses on concerns offered by Toby Hoover, who fronts what often appears to be a one-woman show at the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence:

Toby Hoover of Ohioans Against Gun Violence said over the years the gun lobby has chipped away at restrictions that were in the original CCW law — limits that were sold as protections against dangerous situations that could arise.

The original concealed carry weapons law took effect April 8, 2004, and established rules for who can get permits, what training they must have and where and how they may carry their weapons. It also allowed journalists — but not the general public — to obtain records of who received permits, and it set up a system to let the attorney general determine whether Ohio would recognize permits issued in other states with substantially similar CCW requirements.

Since then, state officials pushed through changes so that CCW permit holders may now carry weapons in restaurants and bars that sell liquor, in state highway rest stops, in school safety zones and in stores that sell carry out alcohol.

Pro-gun Ohioans won other legislative victories over the years: Local governments can no longer pass their own gun laws, concealed weapons may be carried inside passenger compartments of cars, and journalists may see — but not copy — permit holder records.

Another big win for gun rights advocates came in 2008 when Gov. Ted Strickland signed the "Castle Doctrine" law. Under this statute, if someone breaks into an occupied home or occupied vehicle, the occupant is granted the initial presumption of self-defense, has no duty to retreat before using force in self-defense, and is given immunity from civil lawsuits brought later by the attacker.

Many of these changes were controversial, and several — including allowing guns in bars — were passed over the objections of law enforcement.

Although so far that provision hasn't caused many problems, Jay McDonald, president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, said, "It's way too early to tell the impact of guns in bars."

Got that? Even though the drunken shootouts predicted by opponents haven't happened, and even though it's been more than a half a year since the law took effect, the president of Ohio's police labor union still isn't willing to admit they were wrong.

That fact goes to the irony of this entire article, given that many of the same hand-wringers (not to mention the DDN editorial page) quoted in this article are the same people who were quoted by the DDN in the years leading up to passage of Ohio's CCW law. They were wrong in their predictions of mayhem then, and they are wrong now.

But have no doubt, their predictions will be republished by newspapers like The Dayton Daily News ad nauseum, no matter how many times they are proven wrong. The latest focus for concern is, of course, on so-called "Stand Your Ground" laws, which seek to extend the right of being innocent until proven guilty - a right restored through Ohio's Castle Doctrine law in our homes and vehicles - to public places.

Hoover said Ohio is on a slippery slope by constantly expanding the boundaries of what is legally permissible.

"First, you arm everyone because they're law-abiding. Then you give them permission to shoot and then you wonder why you have the results you have as in Florida," said Hoover. "Law-abiding is not a permanent condition."

If legislators push a "Stand Your Ground" law, like the one in Florida, Biehl made clear that he will line up in opposition.

The law allows individuals facing a deadly or serious threat in public to meet force with force and says they have no duty to retreat.

"Clearly the highest right in America is the right to life," said Biehl. "Are we willing to have that right placed at risk because we think someone should be able to 'stand their ground?'"

For now, Irvine said, the priority for gun rights advocates is House Bill 495, which would streamline permit renewals and expand 'reciprocity' by automatically recognizing permits issued by all other states.

Currently, the attorney general may sign reciprocity agreements only with other states that have substantially similar training requirements for their CCW permit holders. Ohio has agreements with 23 states. House Bill 495 would expand it to include 48 states.

Duchak and Biehl are concerned about that bill as well, saying Ohio should have reciprocity only with states that have equally strict standards for permit holders.

"I think it would do well for our state legislators to listen to law enforcement officers more," said Duchak. "We are their constituents as well."

Deputy Duchack would do well to remember who his boss is as well - the People, whose duly elected representatives are passing the laws he is protesting.

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

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