COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Gov. Mike DeWine is staying tight-lipped on a bill that would allow Ohioans to carry a firearm without a permit.
The so-called “permitless” carry bill, passed by the Ohio House of Representatives on March 2, would eliminate a concealed carry permit requirement for Ohioans 21 and over who are legally eligible to own and carry a firearm in the state.
Senate Bill 215 currently sits on DeWine’s desk, ready for his signature — or veto — after it was passed by the House in a 57-35 vote.
“I’m not gonna say much today other than, the job of the governor is to make tough decisions, and I have decision to make. That’s about all I will say,” DeWine told NBC4 on Friday.
If the governor signs SB 215, Ohio would become the 22nd state to eliminate permit requirements for people who wish to carry a concealed firearm, according to State Sen. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott), who sponsored the bill.
Gun rights advocates, including Rob Sexton of the Buckeye Firearms Association, rallied behind the bill, which they have said supports a person’s constitutional right to carry a gun without government interference.
Sexton, who spoke in favor of SB 215 before the Ohio Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee in October, said the bill would remove “irrational and unnecessary” hurdles for law-abiding citizens seeking to exercise their right to bear arms.
“A person who lives, works and drives through areas that have recently exploded in violence should not have to complete government paperwork, submit to a background check, take a class, and then wait on the government to exercise a right guaranteed by the state of Ohio,” Sexton said.
With spikes in violent crime, Sexton said Ohioans interested in owning a firearm and receiving firearm training is “at all time highs.”
“People are genuinely and legitimately worried about their own safety and want to take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones,” Sexton said.
Others, including law enforcement groups, warn that the bill could make things more dangerous for Ohioans and first responders.
Under the bill, Ohioans would no longer need to inform police officers with whom they are interacting that a concealed weapon is in their possession, according to the bill’s text.
Instead, police officers would bear the burden of asking the person if they have a concealed weapon, to which the gun owner must answer truthfully — or be slapped with a second-degree misdemeanor.
Michael Weinman, director of government affairs for the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, said dropping the notification requirement was “one of the critical points” that led the FOP to oppose SB 215.
“We see the notification as a commonsense measure to keep the permit holder and officer safe,” Weinman said.
He further expressed concern that eliminating the notification requirement could lead to “repeated denials” by concealed carry owners to comply with law enforcement’s inquiries about them possessing a firearm, putting officers in potentially dangerous situations.
“By essentially eliminating the CHL, the number of individuals carrying concealed handguns will undoubtedly increase. And with that increase, individuals who have not had any training have not been subject to a background check and can avoid a suspension or revocation by a sheriff,” Weinman said. “Will officers be faced with more gun violence?”