A law that loosens restrictions on gun owners takes effect in Ohio Monday.
The law makes concealed handgun licenses optional. That means anyone age 21 and up can now carry a hidden gun without a permit in the state unless state or federal law prevents them from having a weapon. Previously, Ohioans would have had to complete a background check and eight hours of training to get a concealed carry permit.
A report by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost shows 202,920 concealed carry licenses were issued in Ohio in 2021. 2,668 were denied, setting a record for the second consecutive year. 420 licenses were revoked for reasons including felony convictions and mental incompetence, as required by law.
Gun-rights advocates have said the law is a constitutional issue. Republican Rep. Shane Wilkin of Hillsboro said the law will “restore the people's right to keep and bear arms.”
Dean Rieck with the Buckeye Firearms Association called the signing a "great moment for Ohio and for those who wish to more fully exercise their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
Critics, including Hamilton County Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey, have said it eliminates important training and will make it harder for law enforcement to prevent gun crimes.
“Poor decision-making happens, and unfortunately, if you’re carrying a weapon and you make a poor decision in a very elevated and high-stress situation, the repercussions and ramifications of that are tremendous,” she wrote in a statement.
“People in the general public may not understand how poorly most people shoot.”
Ohioans can still apply for concealed carry permits if they want one. Gun owners will still need concealed carry permits if they travel to a state that requires one. Gun owners can also still seek out and complete concealed carry training.
“Ohio may say you don't need the training, common sense would indicate you still need the training,” said Jeff Chastain, who owns Not Today Firearm Training, which provides concealed carry instruction to Ohioans and Kentuckians.
“The number one advantage is knowing how to safely own and carry that firearm. That to me is critical.”
Chastain said he believes carrying concealed is safer than carrying a gun out in the open, but he’s urging people to consider taking the optional training course.
Chastain said his classes stayed full after Kentucky passed a similar law in 2019. He says other instructors across the country have seen class sizes decrease by about 30% after similar laws took effect.
Another big piece of Ohio’s new law has to do with how gun owners interact with law enforcement officials. Under it, people with concealed weapons no longer have to 'promptly' inform officers they are carrying a concealed weapon during a stop. Individuals will only have to tell an officer they are carrying a gun if the officer asks.
One retired police officer warned this change could lead to dangerous misunderstandings.
“The officers have to decide ’Is this dangerous to me or not? Is this a good guy, bad guy,’” said Gene Ferrara, a former University of Cincinnati Chief of Police.
“I don't think that's something that we should ask the officer to have to think about. I just see the potential for misunderstandings there.”
Ferrara added that he thinks if this goes wrong, somebody could be seriously injured or killed.
A recent study from Johns Hopkins University found the average rate of officer-involved shootings increased by 12.9% in 10 states that had relaxed restrictions on concealed carry laws between 2014 and 2020.
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