There was a flurry of activity for a lot of legislation during the last days of the lame duck General Assembly.
Legislators rushed to finish bills, some that were started almost two years ago. Among those considered were two concealed carry bills, SB 199 and HB 48. HB 48 was passed by the Ohio House June 2015 but had languished in the Senate. In the 11th hour, or perhaps closer to 3 a.m. of the last day, the two bills were combined into SB 199. However, at the end of the day SB 199 did pass.
Gov. John Kasich signed the bill Dec. 19. SB 199 must now be filed with Secretary of State for final enrollment and will be effective 91 days after filing.
SB 199 includes a number of hotly debated provisions. Pro-concealed carry groups have asked for the improvements for several years.
“The bill represents a major step forward for Ohio concealed handgun license holders,” Dean Reick, executive administrator of the Buckeye Firearms Association said.
The major changes to Ohio law in SB 199 include:
— Prohibiting employers, both private and public, from adopting a policy that bans firearms in employees’ personal vehicles. The firearm and all of the ammunition must remain inside the motor vehicle while the person is in the vehicle and must be locked in the trunk, glove box, or other enclosed compartment.
— It removes what proponents call victim zones, such as day care facilities, private aircraft and public non-secure areas of airport terminals. Day care facilities still have the right to post no concealed carry signs like any other private business.
— It makes improvements to school safety zones by allowing concealed handgun license (CHL) holders to leave their firearms in their vehicles on school grounds, just as they’ve been allowed to do on college campuses for many years. Again, the vehicle must be locked when not occupied.
— It also grants political subdivisions, colleges and universities the authority to allow people to legally possess concealed firearms. It is somewhat doubtful that many colleges will adopt the policy. There are a number of local elected officials who indicated they would like to remove the no concealed carry signs.
— It allows active duty military members to carry concealed weapons without licenses provided that they have a military ID and proof that they successfully completed firearms training. The Ohio Attorney General is to develop and post on the Attorney General’s website a summary of Ohio firearm laws and concealed carry laws as they apply to military members in Ohio.
— Ohio sheriffs may use concealed handgun license application fees to purchase firearms and ammunition for training for their department.
The bill signing comes just days after Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office released the latest concealed carry statistics. More than 574,000 Ohioans now hold a CHL according to a Buckeye Firearms Association press release.
“None of this is surprising — Ohio concealed carry instructors remain swamped with demand for their classes,” Buckeye Firearms President Jim Irvine said in the statement. “We were widely criticized for supporting a reduction in required training from 12 to 8 hours. The reason was simple; we wanted more people to get training. The numbers indicate that the change in required training is having the effect we intended.”
The Attorney General’s report for the third quarter of 2016 included almost 25,500 new licenses issued. This is a whopping 59 percent increase over the same period in 2015. Given Ohio’s population and the total number of concealed handgun licenses, the odds are now one in sixteen that an adult has a CHL.
Ohio’s concealed carry law was first passed in 2004 and contained many restrictions. As the popularity of the law has increased, the restrictions are gradually being removed. Concealed handgun license holders have proven to be very safe, competent and responsible in their actions. Statistics continue to support that the CHL holder is among the most law-abiding citizens in our society. I thank our legislature for passing these improvements and Governor Kasich for his quick signature.
Larry S. Moore is a local resident and long-time outdoor columnist.