COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In the aftermath of an attack on Ohio State University’s campus, a bill could be passed in the Ohio Senate that would reduce the penalty from a felony to a misdemeanor for having a gun on a university campus.
The bill, which has already passed the House, would also let universities decide whether to allow concealed carry handguns on campus.
All university-mandated rules prohibiting guns on campus would continue to remain in effect if the bill becomes law, but universities would now have the choice as to whether to keep those mandated rules.
The bill is currently being considered by a Senate committee before it can be considered by a full Senate body.
At the Senate committee hearing Wednesday morning, the committee did not vote to move the bill to be considered by the full Senate body after hearing testimony from over 30 people, including a University of Cincinnati professor.
"A minor misdemeanor is a slap on the wrist that will do nothing to control guns on campus," UC Professor Stephen Mockabee said.
While there are no future scheduled committee meetings yet, Sen. Bill Coley, R-Butler County, who chairs the committee, said he expects the committee to move the bill to the full Senate and for the full Senate to vote on the bill next week.
If that happens, Gov. John Kasich would just need to sign the bill for it to become law.
"I think the witnesses who spoke today made some valid points, and I think we're going to tighten up some of the language in the bill and talk with representatives in the House," Coley said.
One revision might be changing the penalty for carrying a gun into a gun-free zone like a college campus, Coley said. to be an increasing penalty, Coley said.
Instead of just being a misdemeanor for having a concealed firearm on a college campus, the committee might change the bill to have an increasing penalty for each violation, eventually becoming a felony after multiple individual violations.
Eleven people were injured Tuesday after police say Abdul Razak Ali Artan plowed a car into a crowd of people and launched into a knife attack before an OSU police officer killed him.
If the police officer had been farther away from the scene, more people could have potentially been hurt because of OSU’s gun-free zone, Rep. Ron Maag (R-Lebanon), who introduced the bill last year, said.
“Where do (attackers) normally do their damage? They do it in a gun-free zone,” Maag said. “They don’t go to some place where they know someone is going to be carrying a gun. That’s probably the same thought with the guy who had the knife.”
The bill would also allow concealed-carry gun licensee owners to carry concealed guns in daycare centers and other places like airports and police stations.
Eighteen states ban carrying a concealed weapon on college campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina and Wyoming.
In 23 states, the decision to ban or allow concealed carry weapons on campuses is made by each college or university individually: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
While other local universities could not be reached for comment, Xavier University does plan on "looking into" the issue if the bill becomes law. Xavier University does not allow guns on campus.
Liam Niemeyer is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.