DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – On Wednesday, members of the Ohio House of Representatives passed two controversial bills that would loosen restrictions on gun laws.
House Bill 227 would allow any person 21 years or older, who has not been deemed unfit due to felonies or mental incapability, to carry a concealed weapon. The bill would also permit gun owners to forgo notifying police of their concealed weapons during traffic stops.
House Bill 99 would allow K-12 school personnel to carry on school grounds with a minimum of 20 hours of training, instead of the nearly 700 hours that is currently required.
Due to opposing ideas of what will best allow individuals to keep themselves and their families safe on a day-to-day basis, the bill has generated mixed reactions.
“Well, first of all, I think passing a law allowing someone to carry not only a firearm, but if I understand it correctly, this applies to all concealed weapons — but especially firearms –without any training is not a good idea,” said Dr. Tom Hagel, a constitutional law expert and professor of law at the University of Dayton.
However, Rob Sexton, legislative affairs director for Buckeye Firearms Association, said he feels law-abiding citizens should have the right to carry without needing to go through an extensive training process.
“I think it’s important to remember when we talk about people who are criminals, basically, is they were already disobeying the current law,” he said. “They’re not suddenly going to say, ‘Gosh, now that there’s constitutional carry, I’m going to break the law.’ A person under current law is probably carrying without the permit. So I think it’s important to remember that we need to take steps to allow people to protect themselves from people like that.”
In coming to this conclusion, Sexton said he considers examples such as domestic violence incidents in which a person is threatened, but cannot legally obtain a firearm in enough time to defend themselves. He said he applies a similar logic to allowing teachers and other school personnel to carry firearms in educational spaces.
“[School personnel] had to have over 700 hours of training in order to carry a firearm in a school — the same training that a police officer would have to have,” said Sexton. “Within that 700 hours is training on how to arrest someone, how to read them their rights, how to transport them in a police cruiser, and things that just have nothing to do with protecting kids at school.”
He added if school districts do not deem 20 hours to be enough training time, they can impose additional training requirements to allow school personnel to carry. But, Dr. Hagel said he fears that instead of firearms being used for protection, they could create dangerous situations throughout the state.
“I’m concerned that some people will get their hands on a firearm without any training and there can be all sorts of accidents or the firearm could be misused,” he said.
He added, while he is opposed to the passage of House Bill 227 in particular, it’s not unconstitutional. However, some of the arguments made by those who support the bill would have relevance in certain situations even if it doesn’t pass.
“Even with the Second Amendment, the states have the right to place certain limitations on the use and possession and purchase of firearms. So consequently, I don’t see any problem in any new restrictions — certainly on firearms possession and use. But keep in mind that if somebody is being threatened with death or serious bodily harm, they can certainly use a firearm to protect themselves even now without a license.”
If the bill becomes law, both Sexton and Hagel said one critical piece of information to keep in mind is that the factors that determine a self-defense situation have not changed and the penalties for using deadly force under unlawful circumstances will have the same repercussions in court.
“That’s why shootings by constitutional carry people or permit carry people are so rare,” said Sexton. “Because it’s something that none of us ever really want to confront. It’s obviously a giant mess and a tragedy, and the potential of taking a life is very serious,” he said. “And I really strongly believe that your law-abiding gun owners can understand that responsibility.”
Another aspect to pay attention to if the bills are passed, said Dr. Hagel, is reciprocity laws.
“There’s a number of states that have what’s called reciprocity laws and what those laws say is that… let’s say I come into one of those states, and let’s say I have an Ohio concealed carry permit, what those states say is that they will honor that permit. I will be allowed to go into that state and concealed carry if Ohio extends the same privilege to citizens of their state,” he said.
But if the new bills are passed in Ohio, he said those who carry in Ohio without a permit will need to follow the rules of the state they enter if reciprocity is not on the table.
Both bills have already passed the House and will next be introduced to the Senate.