Supporters seek changes in concealed carry law
An opponent says the bill will simply lead to more gun violence in the state.
By MICHELE C. HLADIK
COLUMBUS -- Supporters of Ohio's Concealed Carry law hope to tweak the relatively young law by cleaning up some of its language and offering anonymity to some Ohioans.
New legislation introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives would clarify language that specifies how a gun is carried in a motor vehicle and allow Ohioans a chance to keep their permit information from public eyes if they fear for their lives.
The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Jim Aslanides, R-Coshocton, also sponsored the original bill allowing for concealed carrying of firearms with a special permit.
He said once a bill becomes law there can be ramifications that weren't intended, and need to be cleaned up.
Opponents of concealed-carry legislation express disbelief of his and other supporters' motives.
"It's exactly as we predicted," said Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. "They'd have settled for any bill to come back later and tweak it."
Hoover said she thinks the bill's proponents are moving it toward a system governed by little or no regulations.
"I don't think they're trying to hide that too much," she said.
One of the more controversial issues of the past year was the ability for the public and news media to have access to names and certain information of permit holders.
Under House Bill 347, any applicant or permit holder who fears for their life or the lives of family members can request and have their information held private.
According to Aslanides, the measure is a way of protecting people who carry the guns in fear for their lives, including victims of domestic violence.
He said many news outlets run the names of permit holders, which places them in further danger.
Hoover said she thinks the only information available to the public is names and county of residence.
She said making the records public also keeps the process honest.
Another provision that came under scrutiny in the original bill involves the way guns are carried in a motor vehicle.
Currently, the gun must be in plain sight or locked in a case.
Aslanides said there are several reasons the plain-sight language needs to be changed.
He also said the plain-sight requirement was discriminatory to women because it is not always manageable with the clothes they wear.
He said plain sight was also left to the discretion of law enforcement officers.
"That's been abused by some officers in Ohio," he said.
During the original run through the legislative process, the plain sight language was heavily debated and strongly encouraged by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Aslanides said he asked the patrol for input on the new bill, but he hasn't heard anything from it either opposing or supporting the change.
Lt. Rick Zwayer, spokesman for the patrol, declined to comment on the specific bill and said the patrol has not seen it yet and wasn't aware of it being placed in a House committee.
Zwayer said the patrol is confident the language of the current law and the safety measures it includes are there for a reason.
He said he also did not think there is a problem with the plain sight provision.
"It's well understood, what that means to law enforcement and judges," Zwayer said. "Its well defined as to what plain sight is. It's clear to law enforcement officers and troopers."
He said if there is misuse of the plain sight language by law enforcement, then that should come out in testimony.
Another provision in the new legislation was designed to make the law more uniform across the state and not vary from area to area, Aslanides said.
He said some cities are setting laws restricting the types of weapons that can be carried. He said in the new legislation, Ohio law would pre-empt any local laws on this issue.
HB 347 would also allow off-duty law enforcement to carry concealed weapons in locations that are currently prohibited under the original law.
Hoover said she doesn't think there will be much support for the new bill and says those legislators who do support it are influenced more by the gun lobby than by the general public.
"It's the wrong direction to move," Hoover said. "Everybody starts out law-abiding."
Hoover said she thinks it will simply lead to more gun violence in the state.
Aslanides said the new bill already has 48 co-sponsors and hasn't even had its first hearing in committee. He said he thinks it will receive enough support to make a lot of progress on the issue over the next year, but he isn't sure what the Ohio Senate will do with the bill.
The bill has been assigned to the House Criminal Justice Committee. Committee chairman state Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, said he expects it to receive its first hearing Nov. 15.