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Published: Thursday, 10/11/2001

Concealed weapon bill revised but still in peril


COLUMBUS - A House subcommittee yesterday offered a compromise version of a bill allowing law-abiding Ohioans to carry concealed handguns, but the changes don't appear to bring the measure closer to Gov. Bob Taft's signature.

The substitute bill would reduce the use of fingerprinting in background checks in some cases, expand the types of locations where hidden guns would be forbidden, and reduce the proposed state residency requirement for permit applicants from 60 to 45 days.

But the changes seemed to move the Civil and Commercial Law Subcommittee further away from getting the support of Ohio's major law enforcement organizations. Mr. Taft has said he won't sign such a bill without their support.

“I have not heard anything from the governor on the substitute bill,” said the subcommittee's chairwoman, Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin (R., Aurora). “There is increased support for the bill, particularly in its substitute form. I plan to still move forward.”

House Speaker Larry Householder (R., Glenford) said the chamber may proceed despite the governor's position.

“We want to hear what the governor has to say,” he said. “But if there's overwhelming support from the House, the House has to be the House. The Senate has to be the Senate.”

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Aslanides (R., Coshocton), would permit Ohioans to carry concealed handguns as long as they go through a permit process, undergo criminal and mental health background checks, and complete firearm training.

The Ohio Highway Patrol, Fraternal Order of Police, and Chiefs of Police Association oppose the bill. The only major law enforcement association supporting the measure is the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association, whose members would do the background checks and issue the permits to carry.

Supporters of the bill thought they had a chance with the FOP, which has not been as strident in its opposition as in the past. The FOP had been working with Ms. Benjamin, who has said she hoped to keep the organization neutral.

The changes offered yesterday, however, appear to have had the opposite effect.

“Somebody getting out of the county jail this morning after having done six months for a batch of theft offenses could walk upstairs to the sheriff's office, apply for a permit, and get one,” said FOP spokesman Mike Taylor. “The bill says that unless it's a violent misdemeanor, it doesn't count. That's not our definition of a law-abiding citizen.”

The measure attempts to bolster the rights of private property owners, including businesses, to prohibit the possession of guns on their property. It would not, however, extend the same right to publicly owned sports facilities.

The compromise seems to be luring the support of some gun-rights advocates who previously opposed the bill. Others continue to maintain that no law would be better than the one now before the subcommittee.

“This revised bill is nothing but slick gun control with a new wax job,” said Doug Joseph, executive director of the Ohio Guns Rights Coalition.

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