Ohio lawmakers make changes to gun laws

MARIETTA – Some changes are coming for owners of firearms in Ohio after legislation signed by Gov. John Kasich takes effect in a couple of months.

House Bill 495, inked by the governor Dec. 20, allows renewal of concealed carry gun permits without a renewed proof of competency document; changes the definition of a loaded firearm in a vehicle; and allows properly permitted owners to have guns in vehicles in the parking garages at the Statehouse and Riffe Center in Columbus.

“The big issue was being able to bring guns into the Statehouse garage, because it’s a government building, but the bill also modified the definition of a loaded gun in a vehicle,” said Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta.

Current law considers a firearm loaded if a loaded magazine is present anywhere in the vehicle, even though the magazine is not inserted into the gun. Under the new legislation, a loaded magazine would have to be inserted into the firearm for the gun to be deemed loaded.

Thompson said he had no problem with a provision in the bill that a concealed carry permit holder does not have to show a renewed competency certification every time he or she applies for a concealed carry license renewal.

Under current regulations, after the first renewal of a concealed handgun license, owners must submit proof of renewed competency to show they have had at least two hours of range qualification time when applying for subsequent concealed carry permits.

“I’m OK with that provision, too, although there could be some modifications to any of this legislation in the coming year,” Thompson said, adding that HB 495 is essentially an attempt to simplify the state’s gun regulations.

Reno resident and National Rifle Association instructor John Lankford said the organization currently requires people seeking concealed carry permits to take 16 hours of range training in order to obtain the competency certification necessary to apply for the permit.

“Personally I believe gun owners should qualify to show their competency every time they renew their concealed carry permits,” he said. “As one NRA trainer, Jeff Cooper, put it, owning a gun does not make you qualified to be armed, any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.”

Marietta Police Officer Rhett Walters agreed.

“In my personal opinion, anyone who carries (a concealed gun permit) should requalify every year,” he said. “A year can make a difference in a person’s competency with a firearm.”

Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Kim Deem said concealed carry permit applications are handled by the sheriff’s civil office at the county courthouse.

“We require that applicants for concealed carry permits have at least 12 hours of competency instruction when they initially apply,” she said. “And the second time they come back for renewal of the permit they must have had at least two hours of competency training.”

Deem said concealed carry licenses must be renewed every five years.

Lankford said the new law’s change in what constitutes a loaded firearm in a vehicle would make a big difference for those who carry rifles in their trucks or cars.

“My wife and I both shoot in competitions, and this allows me to have my magazines already loaded beforehand, as long as the magazines are not inserted into the rifle,” he said.

The bill still requires ammunition to be removed from the gun, but ammunition can be stored as close to the gun as the same container with a separate enclosed compartment.

Thompson noted a main point of the bill, addressing the issue of reciprocity for concealed carry permits between Ohio and other states, was dropped to give the legislation a better chance of passage by the end of 2012.

Senators scrapped that effort, which expands how the state’s attorney general enters into agreements with other states to allow Ohioans with concealed weapons permits to carry firearms among those states.

The proposal was removed from a gun bill at the year’s end so lawmakers could spend more time on it.

Currently, the attorney general must negotiate such written reciprocity agreements with states. The idea would allow automatic reciprocity with states that offer such a provision in their law. It would work in a way similar to how states recognize out-of-state driver’s licenses.

Some law enforcement groups and others opposed to the provision feared it would permit license-holders from states with weaker training requirements to legally carry weapons in Ohio.

“In a couple of states, concealed carry permit holders don’t even have to show competency with their firearms,” said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks, adding that’s one of the main objections Ohio has to consider in the proposed reciprocity provision.