After a spate of seven mass shootings around the U.S. in seven days, Ohio House Republicans introduced legislation that would allow Ohioans age 21 and older to carry a concealed weapon without a license.

House Bill 227, introduced on March 23 by Republican Reps. Thomas Brinkman and Kris Jordan and co-sponsored by 20 more Republicans, including State Rep. Riordan McClain (R-Upper Sandusky), also contains other gun rights expansions.

Under current law, Ohioans must get a license from local law enforcement to lawfully carry a concealed weapon. They must complete eight hours of firearms training and complete a criminal background and mental competency checks. In 2020, more than 169,000 Ohioans were licensed to carry a concealed weapon. More than 400 licenses were revoked for causes including felony convictions and mental incompetence, according to a report from the attorney general.

Why are the bill’s sponsors against these precautions? Why? In a civilized society — to which we hope we can lay claim — we can allow concealed weapons, while at the same time ensuring that felons and those mentally ill do not have the right to be packing, so to speak.

Only 15 states allow residents to carry concealed weapons without permits, according to analysis from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Constitutional carry bills like HB 227 have been introduced in every recent legislative session. However, gun advocates see this two-year session as critical, given it’s the last assembly composed of members representing gerrymandered districts drawn on partisan lines that favor Republicans.

“This is the session in which we need to pass a constitutional carry bill,” said Rob Sexton, legislative affairs director of Buckeye Firearms Association, discussing the bill and redistricting in a podcast last month.

The bill’s introduction comes on the heels of seven mass shootings (four or more killed or wounded) in seven days in the U.S., according to a CNN report.

The legislation is likely to face staunch opposition from gun violence prevention advocates. Research from the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies in 2019 found that “right to carry” laws are associated with a 13% to 15% higher aggregate violent crime rate 10 years after adoption.

Should the bill advance through the legislature, Gov. Mike DeWine could be a wild card.

After nine died and 27 were injured in a mass shooting in Dayton in 2019, he pushed for a comparatively modest set of gun control measures like increasing gun crime penalties and expanding a current legal mechanism allowing a judge to temporarily seize weapons from people with substance abuse or mental health problems.

Lawmakers shelved the proposal and instead passed “stand your ground” legislation last year, removing the legal requirement to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense. DeWine repeatedly raised concerns with the bill, but unexpectedly signed it in the “spirit of cooperation” with lawmakers, he said at the time.

DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said the governor has not yet taken a position on the legislation.

In 2004, Gov. Bob Taft signed Ohio’s constitutional carry program into law. Ohio Republicans have expanded places where license holders can carry and decreased training requirements to obtain the license on multiple occasions since then.

Let’s at least pretend we are a country run on laws rather than emotions. Let’s keep the requirement for licenses for those who want to carry concealed weapons.

Ohio Capital Journal/West Life

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