COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A controversial gun bill won’t be heading to the floor of the Ohio House of Representatives just yet, but supporters say it’s only a matter of time.
The plan going into committee Wednesday was to get through testimony, allowing everyone a chance to speak, address some amendments and then vote on the bill that would allow Ohioans to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, training on the laws of when and how to use that weapon or a mandate to inform a police officer during interactions that a person has a concealed weapon.
There have been six previous hearings for this bill. Wednesday’s version now makes seven.
Testimony in support of the bill has been received by the committee 79 times since it began its legislative journey this General Assembly. Conversely, it has received opposition testimony 96 times.
Among those supporting the bill are gun rights groups like Ohio Gun Owners and its president Chris Dorr.
“It’s kind of self-evident that this committee is the most pro-gun committee of all the committees here in the House,” said Dorr about the inevitability that the bill will pass out of the House Federalism Committee.
However, he expressed doubt the bill will go much further than that.
“There’s a lot of moderate Republicans here in the State of Ohio who don’t necessarily like this legislation,” said Dorr. “We’re not confident at all at this point that this is gonna pass onto the House Floor.
Dorr says Ohio Gun Owners as an organization has a lot of work to do. “We’re up against a very mobilized and organized opposition to this bill,” said Dorr.
That mobilized opposition consists of groups like the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Ohio Chiefs of Police, the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, to name a few. Or perhaps Dorr meant groups like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which attends every hearing about a gun whether they support or oppose it.
Either way, the same concerns are popping up with people who oppose the bill. The elimination of proper training is just one of them.
“In the real world, even highly trained people miss their target most of the time when they are under stress and when a good guy misses, innocent people are likely to be injured or killed,” said Alex Heckman, a council member for the City of Westerville speaking on his own behalf. “And while the current training requirements are woefully inadequate for preparing people to act effectively under stress, removing them is irresponsible.”
And yet, some lawmakers are locked into passing the bill, unmoved by testimony and concerned about something else — votes.
Dorr explained why.
“Our members and supporters are going to be aggressively going after Republicans who don’t toe the line here for gun rights.”
A number of Republicans said they are concerned about losing a primary if they vote against the bill, and while they personally don’t think it’s a good bill, they will vote yes because that’s what their constituents want. Others admit they don’t like the bill and don’t care what Dorr and his group thinks about that, calling them a nothing more than a paper tiger.
The House Federalism Committee has both sponsors of the bill and several other Republicans who have supported legislation like this bill in the past.
When the bill passes out of the committee, it will go to the House Rules and Reference Committee. There, it could be assigned to another committee for additional work, something Speaker of the House Larry Householder said he could be a possibility several weeks ago.
The likely committee to receive the bill would the House Criminal Justice committee for several reasons.
The bill eliminates the requirement to tell police you are carrying a concealed weapon.
Currently failing to do so is a crime punishable by law, and only happens roughly 30 times a year across all of Ohio and often when the person was charged with other crimes at the same time.
Supporters of the bill say they shouldn’t have to fear punishment for the honest mistake of failing to notify an officer they were carrying their concealed weapon, despite the data showing such fear is relatively unfounded.
During his testimony on Wednesday, one supporter of the bill went so far as to berate lawmakers for the state of society saying it is the result of laws that are not swift enough and punishments not severe enough.
One of his suggestions was to turn punishments up to 11 by tacking on a 15-year prison term for anyone who uses a gun in the course of committing a crime; additionally, if a person were killed as a result of that incident (regardless if the bullet was fired from the suspect’s weapon or a law enforcement officer’s weapon) then the convicted individual should be given a year and then be put to death.
This is the same person who wants anyone to be able to carry a gun around in their pocket without a permit, without official training, without official education of the legal limits and ramifications of using that weapon in public, all because he feels people should be trusted to be responsible with their weapon when making decisions about when and if it needs to be used.
This is also the same person who, within the same breath, told lawmakers he actively broke the law by carrying a concealed weapon intentionally for protection, and yet claimed to be a law-abiding citizen.
He represents the viewpoint that the Constitution only applies when they want it to apply, shrugging off instances where other constitutional rights, like those for speech and religion, are limited for the safety of others.
You cannot yell fire in a crowded movie theater, and yet that limits freedom of speech; you cannot cover your face when you have your picture taken for your driver’s license, that limits freedom of religion for some.
And yet, asking someone to have a background check done and take a class is too much to bear for that right to bear arms for some, according to Dorr.
“They don’t want to be fingerprinted and tracked, traced, and registered like a sex offender,” said Dorr.
Meanwhile, there are professionals and experts in the field practically begging the legislature not to allow this bill to pass, and yet the likelihood it will do so out of this first committee is high.