Ohio State Highway Patrol study highlights need for changes in concealed weapons laws

By Chad D. Baus & Jim Irvine

A study released last week by the Ohio State Highway Patrol is highlighting the need for reforms to concealed weapons laws in the Buckeye State.

According to the report, which covered January 2008 through August 2009, OSHP Troopers made 447 arrests for illegal weapons, or less than one per day.

OSHP District 9 (south-central Ohio) accounted for the largest number of arrests for illegal weapons (85) during the 20-month time period, followed by District 3 (the greater Cleveland/Akron area) (59) and District 6 (greater Columbus) (55). Post 76 Canton (25) and Post 71 Chillicothe (24) recorded the highest number of arrests at the OSHP Post-level.

At the county level, Richland and Ross had the most arrests related to illegal weapons (24 each), followed by Scioto (18), Mahoning (17), and Stark (17). These five counties accounted for over one in five OSHP illegal weapon arrests (100 or 22%).

Lt. Scott Carrico, commander of the Wapakoneta Post, told the Wapakoneta Daily News that the majority of illegal weapon arrests are made as the result of troopers stopping motorists for other offenses, and that at least some of the arrests involved concealed handgun license (CHL)-holders.

"They are found as the result of other types of searches, arrests or while inventorying vehicles," Carrico told the Wapakoneta Daily News. "Sometimes it's for violation of a concealed carry permit and they are not properly transporting them or notifying that they have them."

The lieutenant said most illegal weapons found are firearms and concealed large knives.

Illegal weapons also may include bombs transported in vehicles, but those are not often found in this area, Carrico said.

He reminded the public that if they are carrying a weapon, even with a concealed carry permit, they are required to notify officers immediately.

"We have a lot with permits for concealed carry that don't carry them with them," Carrico said. "In a mostly rural area, pretty much everyone with a concealed carry permit is aware of the laws when it comes to carrying them."

According to the study, over half of all illegal weapon arrests involved felonies (233 or 52%). This should not come as a surprise, however, given that just about every infraction with a firearm is a felony. Unfortunately for the gun owner, most of the felonies are "administrative" in nature and don't involve intent to do harm.

Traffic stops are the number one situation where citizens who are trying to follow the law are getting into legal trouble. While felonies are supposed to require a criminal intent by the perpetrator, Ohio's concealed carry laws are full of "accidental felonies" for the well meaning gun owner. While Ohio law saw huge improvements when Governor Strickland signed SB184 in 2008, Ohio still has more restrictions and tougher penalties than any other state.

Most states allow law abiding citizens to carry loaded handguns in their cars. In Ohio we heard shrill cries of "officer safety" issues if law abiding people were permitted to transport unloaded guns in their cars. Even with a CHL, allowing the transport of loaded guns, Ohio law has more restrictions that most states have for their unlicensed citizens.

No other state has regulations on how a license-holder must transport a loaded gun. In Ohio laying your firearm on the seat beside you, even holstered, is a crime. So is moving your holstered gun from your hip to your center console while waiting on a red light. Ohio law 2923.16(E)(2) prohibits, "...contact with the loaded handgun by touching it with the person's hands or fingers while the motor vehicle is being operated..." Violation is a fifth degree felony. The effect is that if someone's hand brushes the butt of their holstered gun while adjusting a seat belt, retrieving a dropped cell phone or potato chip, or just tucking in their shirt, the statutory punishment is so severe that they may loose their right to vote, own weapons, and for most professionals, their job. The study by the OHP screams for such provisions to be removed from our laws so that these fine law enforcement officers, as well as the court systems, can get back to arresting and prosecuting real criminals.

Comments to the Daily News by OSHP Lt. Carrico also highlight a need to change the law to a Concealed *Weapons* License.

It is not the type of weapon being carried that makes someone dangerous - it is the person carrying the object that matters. While it seems silly that a people who have devoted the time and monetary resources to take twelve hours of state-mandated training, go through a background check, and been issued a license to carry a concealed gun could find themselves in legal trouble because of their pocket knife, such are the laws in Ohio. Many states issue a concealed "weapons" license rather than a concealed "handgun" license. Ohio should follow their lead.

Jim Irvine is Chairman, and Chad D. Baus Vice Chairman, of Buckeye Firearms Association, Ohio's premier grassroots political action committee (PAC) dedicated to defending and advancing the right of Ohio citizens to own and use firearms for all legal activities.

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Buckeye Firearms Association is a grassroots organization dedicated to defending and advancing the right of citizens to own and use firearms for all legal activities, including self-defense, hunting, competition, and recreation. Read more.