On March 14, Ohio’s Republican Governor Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 215 into law, which will allow permitless concealed carry. All Ohioans 21 and over, who are legally eligible to purchase a gun, will be able to own one without a concealed carry permit, training, or a background check.
The law that proponents have dubbed “Constitutional Carry” will take effect in 90 days. Ohio is now the 22nd state to pass a comparable law. Last year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a similar bill into effect.
Lawmakers in Indiana and Georgia are also finalizing analogous versions of the bill. The Republican governors of both states are expected to sign those bills into law. Meanwhile, Nebraska’s state senate is currently considering its version of a permitless carry bill.
The Ohio House of Representatives approved SB 215 with a 57-35 vote on March 2. It was sponsored by State Senator Terry Johnson (R-McDermott).
The new law will still allow Ohio residents to obtain a concealed carry permit if they so wish, but it is no longer required. Previously, Ohio residents were required to undergo eight hours of training and a background check by law enforcement to carry a concealed weapon.
“This is a day that will go down in history,” said Dean Rieck, executive director of the Buckeye Firearms Association, a pro-gun rights group. “The brass ring has always been to eliminate the licensing mandate. This is a great moment for Ohio and for those who wish to more fully exercise their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
Opponents of the law include members of law enforcement, such as Hamilton County Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey. They believe the new law will make police jobs more difficult and dangerous.
“It is going to promote lawlessness. I think that there will be people who carry weapons concealed for the purpose of being vigilantes. I think that it is not very well thought out for very high populated counties such as Hamilton County,” McGuffey said.
“To vote for people to be able to concealed carry without a license, without any training, without any documentation, it makes it exponentially harder for law enforcement to prevent gun crimes,” McGuffey added.
Gary Wolske, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) of Ohio, authored an op-ed in the Columbus Dispatch in December denouncing the law.
“Legislators don’t want to hear the concerns of the men and women who keep your family safe,” Wolske wrote in the op-ed. “They aren’t interested in the balance between public safety and individual freedom.”
Still, proponents of SB 215 say the law is about constitutional rights.
“As much as we are adamant about training and being physically and mentally prepared to carry a firearm, we are also just as adamant about the Constitution granting you and us all the right to carry a firearm,” said Eric Delbert, owner of LEPD Firearms Range and Training Facility.
“It doesn’t say after so many hours of training and after you pay the government fee and so forth,” Delbert added.
In October, Rob Sexton of the Buckeye Firearms Association spoke in favor of SB 215 in front of the Ohio Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee. He said the bill would remove “irrational and unnecessary” hurdles for citizens seeking to exercise their right to own a firearm and protect themselves.
“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.
Sexton claimed that spikes in violent crime have led to “all-time highs” in the number of Ohioans wanting to own a firearm and receive firearm training.
“People are genuinely and legitimately worried about their own safety and want to take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones,” Sexton said.
However, some of the specific text in the bill concerns the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) of Ohio.
Michael Weinman, director of government affairs for the FOP, said “one of the critical points” that led to the organization’s opposition was eliminating the “notification requirement.”
Previously, Ohio residents carrying a concealed firearm were required to notify police officers they interacted with that they had a concealed firearm in their possession.
Under the new law, Ohioans will no longer need to notify police officers that they have a concealed weapon. Instead, police officers will now need to ask the person if they are carrying a concealed weapon. According to the bill’s text, if the gun owner is not honest with their answer, they will face a second-degree misdemeanor.