2014 marks a decade after Ohioans were legally allowed to carry handguns – concealed – on their person. Since then, the controversial law still fires up passionate debate. That was apparent during a discussion this morning on 90.3’s call in show “The Sound of Ideas.” ideastream's Brian Bull has more.
Last year, more than 145,000 conceal carry licenses were issued by Ohio counties, almost twice that of 2012.
And since it was enacted in 2004, there are now 400,000 residents who are permitted to conceal their handguns on their person.
Rick Kaleda of the Buckeye Firearms Association told Sound of Ideas host Mike McIntyre that these numbers speak for themselves, in demonstrating people’s interest in armed self-defense.
“We haven’t had the `Wild West’ shootout or the shootouts over parking spaces, or waiters being shot for bad service in restaurants as those who opposed…y’know, promised us that we would," said Kaleda. "We’ve found that those are just ghost stories, and ghosts don’t exist. Those who were making those claims have proved themselves to be a not very clairvoyant group.”
But Toby Hoover of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence says there are still significant numbers of people who are wary of guns in public places, and the spikes in conceal carry licenses in Ohio only amplify concerns.
“Most of the time, it has been following some kind of fear tactic that has come out from the gun lobby at the national level," says Hoover. "We’re seeing people react, but I think the important part of it is to remember that this is still a less than 5 percent of the adult population in Ohio, that seem to think they have to do this.”
Data remains sketchy as to whether conceal carry has made life safer or more dangerous for Ohioans. Both sides of the debate offer clashing reports, studies, and anecdotes.
Callers for and against conceal carry chimed in during the show, several touching on recent gun incidents in the headlines…including the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch activist George Zimmerman in Florida…and the more recent triple murder of three people in a Fremont, Ohio bar last Sunday.
Some common ground was found on proper training and safety, which was reinforced by caller "Mike from Mentor", who identified himself as a private investigator and member of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.
“The reason I carry is strictly defensive, not offensive," he said. "And I think probably most people in the state of Ohio probably feel the same way. The idea of these people going into bars and drinking while they’re carrying, that’s wrong. And alcohol and guns do not mix. So anybody who’s going to be drinking, should just pack that thing away.”
Mike and several other callers said background checks, the permitting process, and ongoing regulation of conceal carry users is a strong safeguard against those who would use their firearm to carry out violent crimes.
But at the same time, there are a number of bills pending in the legislature that would chip away current rules, including one that would exempt retired or honorably discharged veterans from the permit process, and another that would let government officials carry concealed weapons into public buildings.
"Judy in Ohio City" called to say she’s worried about what appears to be an aggressive push to promote gun ownership.
“The statistics that I saw showed that guns used for self-defense are very rare compared to the huge number of accidental deaths, suicides, and murders. This is absurd," she said. "I think we have to follow the money. And I think the money behind this is the gun lobby and the gun manufacturers. And they’ve gotten into our government.”
Politics aside, the only sure thing following ten years of conceal carry in Ohio is that your chances of knowing someone who carries a gun hidden on their person has increased greatly.
And the debate as to whether that makes you safer - or more at risk - is far from over.