Ohio Lawmakers Introduce a Number of Gun Law Changes

Republican lawmakers have introduced a new wave of legislation that would continue to expand gun rights in Ohio. Among the proposed changes are measures that would allow public officials to carry firearms in the Statehouse and other “non-secured” public buildings, ban law enforcement from melting down confiscated guns and loosen the state’s definition of “automatic firearm.”

The fresh legislation piggybacks on years of significant changes to Ohio’s gun laws, which began in 2004 when Republican Gov. Bob Taft signed a law legalizing concealed handguns.

The proposals have gun advocates rejoicing and opponents reeling.

House Bill 191, introduced by Republican Rep. John Becker, of Southwest Ohio, would strip a clause from Ohio’s definition of “automatic firearm” that classifies a semi-automatic weapon that fires more than 31 rounds without reloading as “automatic.” The legislation would keep language that defines “automatic firearm” as a gun that fires multiple rounds with a single trigger pull — a more traditional definition.

Doug Deeken, director of Ohioans for Concealed Carry, said the move is “just good house cleaning legislation.”

“A firearm is either automatic, or it isn’t,” Deeken said. “This keeps Ohio from calling something a machine gun that the federal government wouldn’t even call a machine gun. It’s an arbitrary limit that needs to go.”

Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, said housekeeping is not the rationale behind HB 191.

“I think the motive there is to make sure Ohio is not limiting the number of rounds that can be in a magazine,” Hoover said. “I think the motive is to make sure the number of rounds you can have is unlimited.”

Becker’s House Bill 210 would stop the state’s law enforcement agencies from destroying legal, confiscated firearms and ammunition. Instead, agencies would be compelled to sell the ordnance to a federally licensed dealer.

The measure also gives law enforcement the option to sell the guns “for sporting use or as a museum piece or collectors’ item.”

Becker is also toiling on legislation that would give public employees who have a concealed-carry license the right to carry guns inside the Statehouse, including the House and Senate floors.

The legislation, which Becker said could be introduced this month, would apply to all “non-secured” public buildings.

A “non-secured” public building would be defined as one that does not require every person who enters to pass through a metal detector, Becker said, adding that he intends to prohibit local and state governments from overriding the legislation if it’s passed.

Becker’s three gun proposals are not the only controversial firearms legislation on the agenda of this General Assembly, which is controlled by Republicans.

GOP Rep. Terry Johnson, of Southern Ohio, introduced a bill that would allow people from outside the state to carry a concealed gun in Ohio if they hold a concealed handgun license issued in another state. The proposal included in House Bill 203 would apply only to licenses issued by states that recognize concealed handgun licenses issued in Ohio.

In addition, HB 203 would change the training requirement to obtain a concealed handgun license. Current law states a person must go through 12 hours of training. HB 203 doesn’t set a minimum number of hours required for competency.

Johnson’s bill would also arm Medicaid fraud investigators appointed by the attorney general and expand the “castle doctrine” to apply outside of the home in any place a gun owner “lawfully has a right to be.”

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