Ohioans carrying a concealed weapon could legally walk right past “no guns allowed” signs into schools, churches and day-care centers under a measure approved Thursday by the Ohio House.
Conceal-carry license holders would get into trouble only if they refuse to leave when asked. And the requirement that they leave with their guns is only temporary; after 30 days, they could return to that place with a gun.
Under current law, taking a gun into a prohibited site can result in immediate criminal charges or confiscation of the gun.
If the Senate approves the proposal, only those who choose to remain after being asked to leave, or those who return with a concealed gun within 30 days, could face jail time and fines.
“I call this the ‘jerk’ clause,” said primary sponsor John Becker. “If you choose to be a jerk about it and refuse to leave, you are then subject to the charge of criminal trespass with a deadly weapon. … A violator could be told that he has 30 seconds to leave the premises or face 30 days in jail.”
House Bill 233, informally titled the “Decriminalization Effort for Ending Notorious Deaths” — or DEFEND Act — passed by an unofficial vote of 64-31, overcoming opposition from law enforcement, prosecutors and business groups.
Becker, a Republican from Cincinnati, called conceal-carry holders the “cream of the crop of citizenry” who complete criminal background checks, training and other requirements. Becker said the bill would not expand the list of locations where concealed guns are allowed; instead, it would “decriminalize” a person inadvertently carrying a gun into one of those locations.
But opponents say the changes would essentially allow gun owners to break the law.
“These people are knowingly violating the law,” said Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus. “They’re taking a concealed deadly weapon into a prohibited space. … The message that we’re sending is that it’s an open season for somebody to illegally, purposely, knowingly bring a deadly weapon into police stations, into schools and into day-care centers.”
House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton, said the legislation erodes the personal responsibility of gun owners.
“I am a handgun owner,” he said. “There is never a time I do not know where my handgun is. And if you do not know where your handgun is, I think that’s a problem. If you’re wearing that, and you forgot … that’s a problem.”
Strahorn also suggested that the legislation could assist people bent on acts of violence.
“You’re giving people a pass to do a dry run on facilities and places that, ‘If I try to sneak a gun in, and I get it in undetected, I can go to town,’” he said. ”‘But if I’m caught, there’s really no consequence.’”
Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, said he was insulted by opponents’ comments on the bill.
“I’m sorry, (conceal-carry) holders are not people breaking the law,” he said. “These are people who, in an effort to defend themselves, have been fingerprinted, background-checked, taken classes on understanding the law. They are the people that are trying to do what’s right, and this bill is helping those individuals do what’s right.
“To say that this bill somehow allows a law-abiding citizen to take a gun where they know they cannot take it is simply wrong, and I cannot sit here and listen to that.”