The bill would allow county sheriffs to issue licenses for concealed handguns.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- Changes to an Ohio House bill that would allow law-abiding residents to carry concealed handguns are leading the bill's main sponsor to hope for passage soon.
"I'm hopeful we can get this to the Senate by the end of March," said state Rep. Jim Aslanides, a Coshocton Republican. The proposal is pending in the House Civil and Commercial Law Committee and would have to face votes by the committee and the full House.
But a spokeswoman for the House's top Republican said it's premature to say whether the bill will move anytime in the near future.
"There's progress being made," said Jennifer Detwiler, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Larry Householder, a Perry County Republican. "We're working on it."
Provisions: The committee has accepted changes that would have county sheriffs issue licenses for concealed handguns. They are changes that Aslanides said he hopes will help the bill move.
Among the changes, Aslanides said, is one that "establishes the cycle that should take place to trigger fingerprinting. At any time, the applicant who feels offended by the process could stop the background check."
Under a previous version of the bill, county sheriffs would have been required in certain circumstances to obtain fingerprints and ask state authorities to perform a criminal records check, a legislative analysis says.
Other changes, Aslanides added, were increased penalties for the theft of a firearm and permission for private employers to restrict weapons from their property.
Requirements: Under Aslanides' bill, permit applicants would have to be Ohio residents for at least 45 days; be a resident of the county in which they apply or an adjacent county for 30 days; be at least 21 and not a fugitive from justice; and be mentally competent, a bill analysis says.
Republican legislative leaders hope to recruit more law-enforcement support, considered crucial because Gov. Bob Taft has said he won't support a concealed-carry bill unless major law-enforcement groups back it.
Groups' views: The Buckeye State Sheriffs Association has testified in support of the bill, but other law-enforcement groups say they still oppose the measure.
The Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, which represents top law-enforcement officers in the state, opposes any concealed-carry bills.
John Gilchrist, the association's legal counsel, said the association has spoken to chiefs of police in states that have concealed-carry laws.
"What they tell us is, there's more people carrying guns; there's more accidents; there are more assault-with-a-deadly-weapon types of offenses," Gilchrist said.