COLUMBUS - Gov. Bob Taft has dug in his heels in opposing legislation overriding local gun laws, but it may only be a matter of time before such a bill gets a gubernatorial signature.
Ted Strickland, the Democrat who takes office shortly after midnight on Jan. 8, generally supports the bill that moved through the Senate and House Wednesday after months of talks in a Senate committee.
The bill eases restrictions enacted two years ago when Ohio decided to join most other states in allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed handguns on themselves and in cars, purses, briefcases, and backpacks.
But it would prohibit Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland, and other cities from enforcing some 80 stricter gun laws on their books.
"I've talked to most of the major big-city mayors on that issue and I do support home rule, but I have said to them that this is an issue that gets into a constitutional right," Mr. Strickland said this week.
"That makes it a different kind of issue from other home-rule considerations."
Mr. Taft has vowed to veto the bill once it reaches his desk.
Sen. Jim Jordan (R., Urbana) wants to force the issue, getting the bill to the governor as soon as possible to start a 10-day clock ticking for his action.
That would give lawmakers time to consider a veto override before the current two-year session draws to an end.
Legislative leaders have tentatively set Dec. 19 as the date by which they hope to wrap up business, but they could stick around until the end of the year.
"It's good policy," he said. "Let the process work. If he wants to veto it, then our options are to override or go home, and I think we should override. ...All I know is, the emphasis was always on law enforcement being comfortable. Law enforcement was comfortable ...and then suddenly it becomes the pre-emption focus."
The bill passed the Senate 19-10, and then the House voted 74-14 to approve the changes the Senate made in a bill it passed last spring.
A veto override could be problematic in the Senate, where it would need 20 votes. The House would have to hold onto 60 of its 74 "yes" votes.
And it remains to be seen whether the Republican-controlled legislature would want to deal a Republican governor his first veto override just days before he leaves office.
"Until he exercises an option that's different than getting a bill approved one way or the other, we're going to be patient and wait," Senate President Bill Harris (R., Ashland) said.
"We did our best to keep the governor's office informed about what we were doing throughout the summer, working with the highway patrol."
When it has come to concealed-carry legislation, Mr. Taft has largely hitched his signature to the support, or at the least the neutrality, of law enforcement.
The highway patrol has supported current law requiring armed motorists to keep their guns in plain sight during traffic stops, a requirement that gun-rights advocates sought to repeal.
The patrol adopted a position of neutrality when that requirement was softened in exchange for tougher penalties for motorists who refuse to promptly inform an officer that they're carrying a concealed loaded weapon.
Supporters hoped that would be enough to satisfy Mr. Taft.
"I think it was obvious that the governor was considering a veto, but I don't ever recall him saying, 'I will veto it'," Mr. Harris said. "If that was said, I don't recall it."
Taft spokesman Mark Rickel said the governor had made his position clear.
"For months, the governor has been consistent in saying this," he said. "He has continually expressed objections to pre-emption."
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