COLUMBUS - Time is running out for agreement on a controversial bill allowing qualifying Ohioans to carry hidden handguns.
Talks continued last night between representatives of the Senate, House, and governor's office as lawmakers moved toward recessing for the summer today.
Senate President Doug White (R., Manchester) said he doesn't have the Senate votes to override a veto, something Gov. Bob Taft has promised without the Senate amendments that won at least the acquiescence of major law enforcement groups.
But those changes also alienated gun-rights groups and the bill's more ardent supporters in the House.
“They know our position,” said Taft spokesman Orest Holubec. “It's not going to change.”
As of yesterday, the Senate had yet to cast a vote insisting on its amendments, a routine move toward creation of the conference committee.
Under the bill, Ohioans who are at least 21 years of age, have been a state resident at least 45 days, have completed a 12-hour firearm-training course, and have passed criminal and mental-health background checks may receive four-year licenses to carry concealed handguns.
Ohio is currently one of just six states without some form of a concealed-carry law.
In order to convince Mr. Taft to become the first Ohio governor to agree to sign such a bill, the Senate inserted restrictions sought by the Ohio Highway Patrol on carrying guns in motor vehicles.
A key issue is someone without a license caught carrying a concealed weapon in his car could avoid prosecution by arguing the necessity of doing so for professional or self-defense reasons.
“If you have a business and you carry money on you, you could walk down the street with $10,000 and a concealed weapon to protect yourself, but once you get in your car, you can't,” said House Speaker Larry Householder (R., Glenford). “That's got to change.”
Mr. White said the Senate wouldn't name its three conferees to a six-member, Republican-dominated committee until today at the earliest.
In a press conference, anti-gun activists criticized the powerful gun lobby pushing the concealed-carry bill in Ohio and a firearm manufacturer immunity bill in Congress.
“The strong-arm tactics of the National Rifle Association are shameful, un-American, and a threat to public safety,” said Toby Hoover, executive director of the Toledo-based Coalition Against Gun Violence. “Our elected officials must serve the will of the people who elected them, not the bidding of a well-moneyed special interest.''