On Monday, March 14, Gov. Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 215, making Ohio the 23rd “constitutional carry” state in the nation.
For those of you who are not familiar with the term, constitutional carry means a person who is legally permitted to own a firearm may carry it outside their home openly or concealed without obtaining a license or permit. The term was coined by those who believe the Second Amendment bars the federal and state governments from in any way restricting the right to keep and bear arms.
The bill, which takes effect on June 12, significantly changes the state’s concealed carry law. Until now, anyone who wished to carry a concealed weapon on their person or in their vehicle was required to apply for and obtain a permit, submit to a background check and undergo eight hours of firearm training — something that seems reasonable given that guns are lethal weapons. The law also required motorists traveling with a concealed weapon in their vehicle to apprise police of that fact during traffic stops.
The new law tosses the permit, background check, training and duty to notify out the window. I am not going to weigh in on the merits — or lack thereof — of constitutional carry, other than to note that the bill was passed over the vehement objections of the Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Mayor’s Alliance, Ohio Association of Police Chiefs and the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. But hey, what do they know about gun violence and crime, right?
Anyway, as I did when the general assembly passed and the governor signed Ohio’s new “stand your ground” statute, I thought I would use this week’s column to provide some details about the new gun law.
First things first: The law states that “qualifying adults” are not required to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun. A qualified adult is defined as a person who is 21 years old, is living legally in the United States and is not a fugitive from justice, under felony indictment or charged with certain felonies and misdemeanors.
I know I let out a huge sigh of relief when I saw those restrictions had been included in the bill along with language that prohibits convicted felons, people who are mentally incompetent or defective, anyone whose concealed carry license has been suspended or revoked, anyone dishonorably discharged from the U.S. armed forces and persons subject to a civil protection order from packing a piece.
I will observe, however, that because people will no longer be required to undergo a background check, a lot of people prohibited from obtaining and carrying a weapon may slip through the cracks.
But I digress. Here is more good news: The bill does not permit Ohioans to open or conceal carry “restricted firearms,” which are defined as dangerous ordnance and include automatic and sawed-off firearms, zip guns, ballistic knives, firearms equipped with silencers, explosives, rocket launchers, grenades, mines, or other military weapons and ammunition. Now there is a relief.
The new law does maintain the existing prohibition against carrying a concealed handgun into certain public places, including schools and colleges, police, sheriff or state highway patrol stations, jails, airports and airplanes, churches — unless the congregation feels more comfortable worshiping while armed — and day care centers. Business owners may also continue to bar concealed carry in their establishments.
Finally, a point to ponder: There were 2,700 concealed carry permits denied in 2021. We do not know how many others did not apply because they would not have passed a background check. And now we will have no way of knowing how many of them are armed.
— Attorney David Betras, a senior partner at Betras, Kopp & Markota LLC., directs the firm’s non-litigation activities and practices criminal defense law in both the state and federal courts. He has practiced law for 35 years. Have a legal question you’d like answered here? Send it to [email protected].