Sheriffs prepare for rush

Columbus Dispatch
April 2, 2004

Attorney General Jim Petro speculated yesterday that 100,000 Ohioans will apply for permits to carry concealed handguns in the first six months after the new law takes effect Thursday, and that 95 percent will qualify.

Petro, saying he could be off by 15 percent either way, made his guess at a news conference attended by six county sheriffs among the 88 assigned to issue permits to eligible Ohioans 21 or older.

"We really want to see a very safe and effective permitting process," said the attorney general, whose office interpreted the new conceal-carry law, wrote and furnished informational material and will oversee databases on Ohioans with criminal records and mental instability.

"We’re going to assist the sheriffs in every way we can," Petro said.

In Franklin County, Sheriff Jim Karnes said his office will be taking applications only by appointment 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

However, Karnes said the office "probably" will accept applications Thursday, when the law takes effect.

Gerard Valentino, central Ohio coordinator for Ohioans for Concealed Carry, said the law requires sheriffs to accept applications starting Thursday. He said that for a county of more than 1 million residents, Franklin should devote more resources to receiving the applications.

But generally, Valentino is satisfied with preparations.

"Ohioans for Concealed Carry is looking for sheriffs to make a good-faith effort to get as many people in the door as possible," he said.

Karnes said information about applying will be available on the sheriff’s Web site and a telephone number will be publicized for getting an appointment.

He said it should take 10 to 15 minutes to receive material from an applicant.

If snags develop, the application process will be changed to accommodate the public, Karnes said.

Applicants should bring with them their completed application, a certificate of completion of a training course, cash or a check for $45 and a 2-by-2 inch photograph, preferably passport quality. They should not bring a gun.

Sheriffs have up to 45 days to process the applications after receiving them, making the criminal-background checks and the mental competency checks. The attorney general’s office said it should take three to four weeks at the outset.

Petro said his office will begin constructing a database on mental patients assigned to hospitals and clinics through the courts.

He said sheriffs also will try to check on an applicant’s mental history, even though the data may be difficult to obtain.

Those who have carried concealed handguns in the past, such as nurses on third shift or business owners taking receipts to the bank, will lose the defense they had in court if they were charged. They will have to get a permit.

Valentino said those people should be given a temporary permit immediately upon submitting their application for a conceal-carry permit and a sworn statement that they are in imminent danger.

James V. Canepa, deputy attorney general, said temporary emergency permits still will require a criminal-background check, taking perhaps one day.

Fingerprinting and a mentalcompetency check also will be done, said Robert A. Cornwell, executive director of the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association.

Canepa said as long as a person can present strong evidence of the need to carry and has applied for a permit, a court likely would take that into consideration.

Petro said that while handguns will be banned from all government-owned or -leased buildings, it’s undecided how the law will apply in public parks or roadside rest stops. He said his interpretation is that the prohibition applies only indoors on government land, but that a court test could determine otherwise.

Summit County Sheriff Drew Alexander said the new law requires "a whole new mindset for us."

"Most of us have spent years taking guns off people," he said, adding that not knowing whether a weapon-carrier is friend or foe will be "a little bit scary."

"We don’t really want them to become involved (in stopping a crime in progress)," he said.

"We hope they’ll use good common sense."

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