State Representative Looks to Loosen Gun Zone Laws for Concealed Carry Permit Holders
Ohio law prohibits concealed carry permit holders from carrying their weapons into public or private spaces that are clearly designated with signs saying guns are not allowed on the premises. A new bill under consideration at the Statehouse would change that.
Republican State Rep. John Becker says gun-free zones are often confusing for concealed carry permit holders. That’s why he says his bill is needed.
“It simply says for those people who have a concealed carry permit, which we know are the cream of the crop of the citizenry because they’ve had the background checks as well as training and gun safety and marksmanship."
Under his bill, "people with those permits, if they were to inadvertently go into one of these gun-free zones, they could not be charged with a crime unless they refuse to leave,” Becker said.
Becker’s bill would apply to public places, like the Statehouse, and private spaces, like a hardware store, restaurant or bar.
Asked whether he thinks this would be a way of allowing concealed permit holders to ignore what property owners want, Becker says:
“Is that going to encourage people to violate those gun free zones intentionally? Perhaps. And frankly, I’m OK with that. And the reason is the people in those gun free zones are people with concealed carry permits and again, they are the cream of the crop of the citizenry. And it makes for a safer environment.
"We certainly see on a regular basis, an increasing basis, bad guys with guns going into these gun-free zones and there’s nobody there to stop them.”
A business owner's to blame?
And that leads to another part of Becker’s bill. It would remove immunity for business owners who don’t allow concealed carry if a shooting were to happen on their premises.
“We think this bill is just plain bizarre.”
That’s Jennifer Thorne, the executive director of the Ohio Coalition against Gun Violence. Her group opposes the bill.
“Suddenly, it’s a business owner’s fault if someone decides to target his or her business? I mean, when did it become OK to blame victims of crime?”
Thorne says this bill tramples on the rights of business owners.
“To us this really seems like an attempt to bully business owners who want to support a culture of peace instead of fear by not allowing guns on their premises. What we are looking at under this bill is something that would blame victims of crime,” she said.
'A half-baked solution looking for a problem'
Becker’s bill will also be opposed by some of his fellow lawmakers, such as Democratic Rep. Greta Johnson.
“This is just sort of a half-baked solution looking for a problem. It doesn’t address any gun issues that Ohio is currently facing and it’s going to do nothing but create confusion amongst lawful concealed carry permit holders, business owners and law enforcement,” Johnson said.
Johnson says she more than willing to sit down with Becker to talk about some problems that might exist with Ohio’s current concealed carry law. Becker says he expects some of his Republican colleagues will support his plan. The bill has been introduced but hasn’t had hearings.
Lawmakers are not expected back until after the November election. And when they return, they are going to be holding some long debates during the lame-duck session.
And since the Republican-dominated Legislature has been interested in expanding the rights of gun owners, this bill could be on the agenda.