Substitute HB 142 has sixth hearing, reported favorably by committee

I was on hand to testify for Substitute HB 142 as it had its sixth hearing and was reported favorably by the House Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations by a 9-2 bi-partisan vote. The bill now awaits a vote by the full House, which would send it to the Senate for further deliberation.

There has been much confusion about the bill. Several legislators indicated they have received calls from gun owners opposed to the bill, but upon explaining the changes in the bill, most callers agreed that it was a step in the right direction and an improvement over current law.

Download Sub. HB 142 here.

Read the analysis of the changes proposed in Sub. HB142 here.

It's worth noting that Ohioans for Concealed Carry and Ohio Gun Owners both testified against the bill, while I testified in favor. The NRA is also on record supporting this legislation.

Gary Witt, testifying for Ohioans for Concealed Carry, cited the Niles v Howard case, decided by the Ohio Supreme Court. Witt claimed that because of that ruling, if Sub. HB 142 passes, cities would be able to disregard Ohio's preemption law and raise the penalty from a minor misdemeanor to a first degree misdemeanor.

Local municipalities may indeed adopt local rules and enforce penalties up to and including first degree misdemeanors, with or without any state law. However, Ohio law prevents local governments from passing firearms-related laws, which are explicitly restricted to the State. See ORC 9.68.

Even assuming Witt is right on the matter of increased penalties locally, that still means cities could make penalties no worse than current law, while gun owners would benefit from all the other improvements in the bill. So it's hard to see this as a real negative.

Still, the potential of municipalities to increase the penalty is something that we will investigate, and work with the Senate on as needed, to ensure gun owners' rights are protected.

Why BFA is in support of the substitute bill

The question before the committee Tuesday was NOT whether or not like the as-introduced version of HB 142 or Sub. HB 142 better. The question before the committee was "should Sub. HB 142 move forward?" We like progress. Faster is better, but good progress is better than no progress.

The bill would make substantial improvements to Ohio law including:

  • Eliminate the "promptly" standard for when a concealed handgun license (CHL) holder must notify a law enforcement officer (LEO) they are armed and replace it with a well-defined time: when they hand the LEO their ID.
  • Eliminate the vague standard of "law enforcement purposes" for duty to notify and replace it with the officer asking for driver's license / state ID card.
  • Eliminate the requirement to notify any / all law enforcement officers and replace it with a requirement to notify "the" officer who requests your ID.
  • Eliminate the duty of every individual in a stopped vehicle to notify police of their concealed handgun license and specify that only the person(s) specifically asked for ID are required to notify.

The above changes should all but eliminate people being charged for failure to notify. The vast majority of these cases revolve around the interpretation of "promptly," which has never been defined. It means different things to different people / police / prosecutors / courts. This fix alone makes this a great improvement over current law when considering actual cases from the last decade.

Sub. HB 142 bill would impose no new restrictions or duties on license holders. Someone following the law today would clearly be in compliance under the proposed changes. But most people charged for violating the current law would not be charged under the proposed changes. These are important changes for every CHL holder.

For people who are charged / convicted, there are important improvements for them, including:

  • Eliminate the first degree misdemeanor penalty and replace it with a minor misdemeanor penalty.
  • Eliminate the threat of up to 6 months jail time.
  • Eliminate the threat of $1,000 fine and replace it with a fine capped at $25.
  • Eliminate the one-year suspension of a person's CHL.

Simply put, it will eliminate most of the violations for failure to notify, reduce the fine by 97.5%, and eliminate the possibility of jail time for those few who are charged. No matter what the facts of the case, the possibility of facing jail time is stressful. Eliminating that threat is critical to anyone charged under this law.

Lastly, there seems to be great confusion over the "duty to notify" police. While it is true that many states do not place the burden on the license holder, that does not mean they are exempt from notification. Most states require license holders to notify police "on demand" or "when asked." When an officer asks, "Do you have CHL?" or "Do you have any weapons on your person or in the car?" there is a duty to inform. In Ohio, under Sub. HB 142, the trigger would be the LEO asking for your ID or driver's license.

In our opinion, that difference is more than offset by the improvements for all CHL-holders contained in Sub. HB 142, especially knowing that the bill is not headed to the Governor to be signed into law, but (hopefully) headed to the Senate where it will undergo more consideration and possible changes.

We will continue to work with the bill sponsor, Representative Scott Wiggam (R), leadership, and the Ohio Senate to address concerns and pass legislation that protects and restores the rights of law-abiding gun owners. We thank Representative Wiggam, Chairwoman Kristina Roegner (R) and the entire House Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations for their work on this bill and others important to gun owners.

Jim Irvine is the Buckeye Firearms Association President, BFA-PAC Chairman, and recipient of the NRA-ILA's 2011 "Jay M. Littlefield Volunteer of the Year Award" and the CCRKBA's 2012 "Gun Rights Defender of the Year Award."

Media Coverage:

Associated Press - Ohio Bill Would Reduce Penalty on Concealed-Carry Gun Notice

James Irvine, president of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said the compromise struck a reasonable balance.

Columbus DispatchGun backers accuse cops of lying about Ohio conceal-carry law

To the frustration of some pro-gun lawmakers, the compromise wasn’t enough for some gun-rights advocates.

Chris Dorr, director of Ohio Gun Owners, asked, “Who is this committee trying to placate?” Answering himself, he said it must be people who don’t have “full restoration of gun-owners’ rights at heart.”

Gary Witt, director of Ohio Concealed Carry, said that when law-enforcement groups say it puts officers in danger when they don’t know about permit holders’ guns during detentions and traffic stops, they’re making “false claims.”

As with Dorr, Witt said his group was opposed to anything short of scrapping the penalties.

And as with a few other pro-gun Republicans, Rep. John Becker of Union Township seemed incredulous.

“This legislation is way more than half a loaf,” he said. “It’s everything but the last slice.”

The measure, which did have the support of the Buckeye Firearms Association, passed the House Federalism and Interstate Regulations Committee 9-2. It goes now to the full House.

Toledo BladeBill would reduce penalty for failing to tell police of gun

Critics of current law — including the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Scott Wiggam (R., Wooster) — had argued that police officers at the local level have interpreted the word “promptly” differently, creating uncertainty for the driver.

James Irvine, president of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said he believed that the compromise strikes a reasonable balance.

“It maintains a burden on the license holder to notify law enforcement, and it does maintain penalties, but it greatly reduces those penalties to something that is far more reasonable and manageable for the license holder,” he said. “Further, this bill addresses the vagueness in the word ‘promptly,’ which creates the vast number of conflicts where license-holders are charged...

“It provides a specific trigger, an officer asking for identification, to alert the license-holder that he needs to notify the officer,” Mr. Irvine said.

Under the new language, when a police officer asks a driver with a concealed-carry permit for his driver’s license, the driver must also display his permit or otherwise tell the officer that he has a permit and is carrying in the car.

Rep. John Becker (R., Cincinnati) suggested the compromise brings gun-rights activists “so far down the field that it’s first and goal.”

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