YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — On the surface, it would seem like not much has changed in the month since gun laws in Ohio changed to allow people to carry a gun without a permit.
But Lt. Gerard Slattery, who heads up a unit that looks for guns and gun offenders, said that is deceiving.
In the first month since the law took effect — June 13 to July 13 — city police and other agencies working special patrols in areas prone to gun violence have arrested 12 people on gun charges.
In the same time period last year, police arrested 14 people on gun charges.
However, Slattery said that because of the new law, police let 10 people go who would have been charged with a gun crime before it took effect.
“It’s making law enforcement’s job a lot more difficult,” Slattery said.
When the law was proposed, it was opposed by several major law enforcement organizations across the state, saying they were afraid it would lead to more gun violence.
Proponents of the bill have said the new law makes it easier for people to get a gun to defend themselves.
Because someone does not have to have a permit to carry a gun now, police can no longer charge people with improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle unless they are under 21 and have a handgun. In Ohio, a person must be 21 to have a handgun.
Under Ohio law, improper handling of a firearm is defined as knowingly discharging a gun in a vehicle or having a loaded firearm accessible in the vehicle without a permit.
The new law also did away with the 12 hours of training mandated for permit holders and also people stopped by police no longer have to tell officers if they have a gun. Under the new law, people do not have to tell police they are armed unless police ask them.
The state first instituted a permit system for handgun owners in 2004.
Last year, of the 14 gun arrests from June 13 to July 13, 10 of those arrested were charged with improper handling. Three others were charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, and one was charged with carrying concealed weapons.
In the same time period this year, 10 people were charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, one with carrying a concealed weapon and one with improper handling.
The 10 people this year who were let go would have been charged with improper handling under the old law, Slattery said.
At least two of those people had high-capacity magazines also, Slattery said, but police had no choice but to let them go.
Slattery also said one of the first questions officers ask people they stop is if they have a weapon.
In the month since the new law took effect, the city has seen nine shootings, three of them fatal. In the same time period last year, Youngstown had 18 shootings, four of those fatal.
Last year, 139 people were shot in Youngstown, including all 31 homicide victims. So far this year, 46 people have been shot, 12 of them fatally.