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Would elimination of concealed gun licenses make Ohio safer?

Posted at 5:00 AM, Dec 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 00:56:09-05

For about four years, Carlnetta Flagg-Miles has made it her mission to fight gun violence.

She marches. She talks to young people about putting guns down.

She doesn't want what happened to her to happen to them.

"My son's name was Charles Flagg," she said. "He was murdered Oct. 17, 2015."

Charles Flagg was at a club, hanging out with friends, when two men tried to rob him as he was leaving.

"He couldn't get anything from my son, so he decided to pull out a gun and shoot my son," Flagg-Miles said.

Charles was 33 years old.

That's why Flagg-Miles opposes House Bill 178, which would allow Ohioans to carry concealed handguns without a license. She predicts chaos if it becomes law.

"I see a lot of trigger-happy people," she said. "Being able to carry a gun without a permit is dangerous for the community."

Republican State Representative Tom Brinkman of Mt. Lookout introduced the bill, which would make a number of changes to existing law governing concealed carry:

  • It expands the scope of the law by changing "concealed handgun" to "concealed weapons," which includes "all deadly weapons."
  • It eliminates the training currently required to own a gun.
  • It also removes the requirement to notify police officers during a traffic stop that an individual is carrying a concealed weapon.
  • In addition, the bill requires concealed weapons holders to be 21 years old. Felons would not be allowed to purchase a weapon.

"So the idea is, 'Why all the restrictions on our law-abiding citizens?'" Brinkman said. "I'm trying to empower law-abiding citizens to be able to defend themselves and protect themselves when they get into these types of situations."

Brinkman said people who commit crimes with guns are difficult to control, and gun laws shouldn't be used to restrict the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding people.

Members of the House Federalism Committee fiercely debated the bill. Some questioned the impact the changes could have on police officers during traffic stops, what impact a lack of training would have and how people who own guns will behave when angry.

An amendment was offered to require a pamphlet about Ohio's gun laws and safety be provided with gun purchases, but a majority of the committee rejected the idea.

"Frankly, the absurdity of not putting a pamphlet in a box to allow people to know current law, and somehow that is going to kill people, is astonishing to me," said Republican Rep. Ryan Smith from southeast Ohio.

Brinkman and others argued that the pamphlets would be too costly. He also said the rationale behind changing the law's scope from only handguns to all deadly weapons was to allow people to carry concealed knives.

"The constitution says the right to bear arms. I'm thinking firearms, but the idea was also for knives," Brinkman said.

He acknowledged that the weapons definition could be expanded to include concealed assault weapons.

"That certainly wasn't part of the discussion," Brinkman said. "But, that would be correct."

Supporters of the bill believe it is written to be closer to the intent of the U.S. and state constitutions.

"There is no license required to exercise your First Amendment right of free speech, or your exercise of religion," said gun rights advocate and firearms instructor Jeffry Smith. "Nor should there be to exercise your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms."

Many anti-gun groups want to eliminate guns from non-government agents, Smith said, but he believes arming more people makes places safer.

"A place that has (no guns allowed) signs is not keeping out criminals," he said. "It's increasing the chances that something negative is going to happen there, not decreasing it."

Not all firearms instructors agree.

Marcus Zeigler, owner of Zeigler Defense Systems, believes untrained, unlicensed gun owners will lead to problems because people don't know how they will react in a dangerous situation. Most of the time, he said, it's not best to engage a gunman.

"A regular civilian that doesn't train, they just picked up a gun, does no one any good," he said. "I tell people, 'Once you do get your concealed carry permit, you are not a cop. Don't be a vigilante. If you do come across a situation, the best thing to do is call 911.'"

Zeigler is also concerned that many people will not pay to receive training if it isn't required.

"Where would they get their training from?" he said. "Online? YouTube? Movies?"

Permitless carry, also known as constitutional carry, has already become law in more than a dozen states, including Kentucky, where it took effect earlier this year. Supporters said in many of those states they have seen many new gun owners request gun training and gun violence has dropped.

But one retired local researcher doesn't believe the data supporters are citing regarding gun violence.

A recent study out of Stanford shows an increase in violent crimes after states pass concealed carry laws, said Cynthia Molloy, a retired epidemiologist who wrote a letter to state lawmakers in opposition to the house bill.

"Any time you have something that causes death in young, otherwise healthy people at a rate of 100 a day, that's a public health crisis," Molloy said. "We've got to study it. We've got to understand, which means putting resources and people who understand public health issues to work on this specific issue of gun violence."

The bill has slowed on its way through the state legislature.

"Dayton has had a substantial impact," said Brinkman, referring to the mass shooting in August that left nine people dead in the city's Oregon District. "You have a crowd, the 'do something' crowd."

Brinkman said there are bills pending in the state senate that were introduced in response to Governor Mike DeWine's "STRONG Ohio" plan to change some gun laws. Brinkman said it may take up to a year to get the bill to the governor's desk.

"I'm asking the committee chair to have hearings to continue the discussion on our bill," Brinkman said.

Flagg-Miles said she'll continue her message as well.

"We're trying to stop the violence," she said.