Ohioans react to new handgun law
Many Lorain County pistol packers have filed for permits to carry concealed weapons since HB 12, the Ohio Concealed Carry law came into effect April 8.
Since the bill’s passage in January, many colleges have voiced concern that confusing language within the bill might make people think they could carry guns on campus, or even allow it under certain circumstances.
Under section 2923.126(C)(1), the bill says it does not abridge the rights of a private employer to regulate or restrict concealed firearms on their premises, but a bracketed statement within the section excludes private colleges, universities and institutions of higher education from the provision.
The bill’s author, State Representative Jim Aslanides, maintains that the legislation clearly bars concealed weapons from colleges, and that the disclaimer is meant to keep colleges from allowing concealed weapons.
“Firearms have always been banned from any state-sanctioned institution of higher learning,” Aslanides said. “The bracketed statement is intended to imply that colleges have no discretion in the matter.”
In a different section of the legislation, colleges appear on a list of places in which concealed weapons are banned.
Attorneys for Oberlin and other colleges don’t find the bill’s language as clear as Aslanides. Brian Maciak of Frantz Ward LLP, Oberlin College’s law firm, said that if the disclaimer is intended to mean what Aslanides says it does, there was no reason to include it.
Maciak claims that some of the bill’s aims are confusing. He cited a section that, “when certain conditions were met, individuals [are allowed] to fire concealed handguns while seated in vehicles when shooting at coyotes or groundhogs out of deer season.”
President of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities Larry Christman lobbied on behalf of Oberlin and other colleges for clearer and broader language barring weapons from private colleges and universities and eventually opposed the bill before its passage.
Christman was able to secure immunity for colleges from liability in the event of a shooting on campus. But his efforts to get the bracketed statement removed, or get legislators to grant colleges the right to ban concealed weapons from locked vehicles on campus parking lots, was unsuccessful.
The Concealed Carry Law grants private employers the right to prevent employees from keeping a licensed firearm locked in their vehicle, but this right was not extended to private colleges. Christman said that college employees were given the right to keep firearms in their vehicles because college employees in rural areas had expressed concerns that they liked to go hunting after work. Christman said he did not know why this right was only given to college employees.
Christman said that getting the desired changes was difficult because public colleges and universities would not lobby alongside him.
“The public colleges didn’t want to go through the hassle of posting prohibitions all over campus,” Christman said. “But I think that they may not be happy with the legislation anymore.”
Christman has met with Lorain County Representative Joseph Koziura to explore ways to clarify the legislation.
“We are going to have to work with the public colleges as well,” Christman said. “We need to be united on this.”
New legislation has not yet been proposed.
Provided that authorities could catch an individual on campus with a concealed weapon, they could only be prosecuted if they had knowingly violating the statute, according to Aslanides. Violators get the benefit of the doubt despite strong language in the bill favoring the rights of landowners.
“We took great pains to make sure that nothing in the bill preempted private property rights,” Aslanides said, “Private property owners still have the right to post signs barring concealed weapons, just as they have to right to post signs barring hunting.”
Aslanides acknowledged it was conceivable that a college might find their atmosphere and admissions adversely affected by posting signs banning concealed guns all over campus. But he believes that colleges would not need to post signs mentioning guns.
“Because there is a blanket ban on having guns on any state-sanctioned college campus, a college could just clearly mark their property,” Aslanides suggested.
Colleges are not mentioned in the section of the law on the rights of private property owners. Maciak speculated this could mean that the legislation might allow employees of private colleges to keep concealed weapons in their locked vehicles, but not students. In Maciak’s interpretation, college student employees are on uncertain standing.
President Nancy Dye expressed concerns that the legislation could legitimize carrying guns or shootings. She expressed confidence that the legislation still clearly banned weapons from school buildings, if not parking lots. As to the after-hours hunting concerns, Dye questioned the wisdom of hunting squirrels with handguns. Dye has written an op-ed to the Plain Dealer regarding the legislation, and is working on getting more media attention on the issue.
“I’m horrified by this legislation,” Dye said.
As far as Safety and Security is concerned, nothing has really changed.
“Weapons have always been banned, and will continue to be,” Director of Safety and Security Bob Jones added. “The only change is that now our policy will be to ban all weapons, whether or not their carriers are licensed.”
Safety and Security officers do not carry guns.
Local businesses have begun to post signs banning guns from their premises. One Missler’s employee said that all their stores will post signs. “Our boss doesn’t want guns in his stores.”
“Let’s hope this is a good community, that we don’t have to worry about things like that,” she added.
Sandy Racz at the Ohio Educational Credit Union said all their branches have put up signs, even though it is illegal to bring firearms into banks.
Counties will receive $25 of each $45 application fee they process, but this will not even cover the cost of processing, according to the Chronicle Telegram.
Counties are required to issue or deny permits within 45 days of filing, and cannot deny permits if applicants pass the screening process. Applicants must be fingerprinted and pass criminal and mental background checks. Yet applicants will not be screened for mental institutionalization that occurred before the day the law went into effect- the day many filed their applications.
In an April 5 press release, Lorain County Sheriff Phil Stammitti reminded applicants to not bring their guns to the police station.
The Ohio Attorney General’s office will release the amount of permits issued statewide, with statistical information, by July 8, 2005.
Aslanides said that licenses would be kept out of the public record to protect privacy and preserve the concealed weapon carrier’s element of surprise. The only people who will be allowed to access license information are members of the media. The Plain Dealer criticized this decision in a January editorial, calling the disclosure system unfair and irrational. The Plain Dealer has pledged to obtain and publish all license information when the bill goes into effect in April.