DeWine signs bill to make it easier for people to carry concealed guns

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Updated: 11:15 a.m., Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Over the objection of police groups and gun control advocates, Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) has signed a bill that would allow Ohioans to carry a concealed gun without first having to obtain a permit or take a training course.

DeWine was in a precarious position with this bill as he faces three Republican primary challengers, all of whom are more supportive of relaxing gun regulations.

When asked if the timing was a motive for passing the controversial legislation now, House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) said, “The Legislature does what it deems good public policy so that’s our focus.”

All 99 seats in the Republican-dominated House are on this year's ballot. But the bill didn't pass the House by a veto-proof majority.

Last January, DeWine signed the controversial "Stand Your Ground" bill (SB175) which removes the requirement for a person to retreat before shooting someone in self-defense. DeWine said he signed it because he had promised to do so during his campaign.

But DeWine has also said he doesn't consider guns to be a high priority issue. He embraced some controls on guns, especially after the August 2019 mass shooting near Dayton that killed nine and injured 17 others.

Just two months later, he stood alongside then-Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat who is now running for governor in her party's primary, to announce his "Strong Ohio" gun reform plan.

But Ohio lawmakers have not been willing to take up DeWine's gun reform plan. Last year, after signing the "Stand Your Ground" bill, DeWine tried to insert some parts of his gun plan into his proposed two-year state budget but lawmakers didn't embrace those proposals.

The new law (SB215) will make a concealed handgun license optional. And people who are stopped by police will no longer have the duty to tell every officer working the scene that they are carrying a concealed weapon. Instead, they must tell an officer who asks, unless they have notified another officer.

Police agencies like the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police said that change will put officers at increased risk so they lobbied hard against the bill.

DeWine didn't issue a statement when he notified reporters late Tuesday that he had signed the permitless concealed carry bill into law. But gun-rights advocates were quick to praise the governor for his action.

"This is a day that will go down in history," wrote Dean Rieck, executive director of Buckeye Firearms Association, in a news release. "The brass ring has always been to eliminate the licensing mandate, which people refer to as permitless carry or Constitutional Carry. And now, finally, that day is here. This is a great moment for Ohio and for those who wish to more fully exercise their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms."

Rieck said DeWine promised his group and gun owners that he would sign a Constitutional Carry bill if it was put on his desk and has now fulfilled that promise.

But groups that had urged DeWine to veto the bill were quick to condemn him.

“Today, Governor DeWine sided with the gun lobby over public safety, over the safety of Ohio’s law enforcement officers who work every day to protect our communities,” said Kristine Woodworth, a volunteer with the Ohio chapter of Moms Demand Action.

Woodworth said Ohio has some of the weakest gun laws in the country. “..And today we lost one of the last foundational public safety measures on the books – for no reason other than to satisfy the gun lobby. We will hold our leaders accountable come November.”

Former Dayton mayor and Democratic candidate for governor Nan Whaley, who stood alongside DeWine as he announced his "STRONG Ohio" gun reform plan back in 2019, said he has broken his promise to reduce gun violence. "DeWine's decision to sign this dangerous bill is shameless and disgraceful. Once again, he's putting primary politics ahead of Ohioans. Ohioans deserve better," Whaley said.

The bill doesn't contain an emergency clause so it will go into effect in 90 days.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

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