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Published: Friday, 12/14/2012

Bill allowing guns in parking garage under Ohio Statehouse ‘likely’ to get Kasich signature

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich is about to get a bill that would for the first time allow guns to be legally brought into the parking garages under the Ohio Statehouse and the nearby state tower containing his and legislators’ offices.

But just before approving the latest bill relaxing restrictions on carrying concealed firearms in Ohio, lawmakers removed a provision that would have required the state to recognize similar permits issued in other states even if those persons couldn’t have qualified here.

In one of their last acts before ending the current two-year session and heading for the doors for the holidays, the Ohio Senate voted 26-7 to approve House Bill 495. The House then voted 66-23 to accept the changes made by the upper chamber and forward the bill on to Mr. Kasich.

A spokesman for the governor said Mr. Kasich is “likely” to sign it.

The provision dealing with the parking garages under the Statehouse and Riffe Center across the street was a reaction to criticism lawmakers had faced for placing that garage off-limits to guns while allowing them in numerous other public locations throughout the state.

“This change takes steps to correct that,” said Sen. Larry Obhof, Jr. (R., Medina). “Several other state legislatures also allow firearms in or around their capitol buildings or their garages.”

Democrats represented all seven no votes in the Senate.

“It seems to me that you should not be able to carry a firearm, a loaded firearm, unless you’re a police officer or some type of official where carrying a firearm is part of your duty in the Statehouse or Statehouse garage,” Senate Democratic leader Eric Kearney (D., Cincinnati) said. “That seems perfectly reasonable to me and doesn’t seem to tread upon anyone’s Second Amendment rights.”

The bill also changes the definition of what constitutes an unloaded gun when it comes to storing both a firearm and its ammunition in a vehicle. Under current law, a gun’s magazine must be empty even if the magazine is stored in a separate compartment of the vehicle or locked container.

The bill would allow the magazine to be loaded provided it is still stored in a separate container from the gun or in a separate enclosed compartment of the same container.

A portion of the bill to have Ohio recognize concealed-carry permits issued in other states was removed, but that issue is far from dead. The bill’s effective date is July 1, and the National Rifle Association still hopes to work with lawmakers on new reciprocity language during the next session.

“This is an issue we need to act upon, but we need to do it right …,” said Sen. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati). He noted the bill, as originally written, could have allowed an Ohioan who because of a criminal conviction could not get a permit according to Ohio law to then go to a less-restrictive state for a permit that then would be recognized here.

The Fraternal Order of Police and the Ohio Highway Patrol had been opposed to the bill, and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Terry Johnson (R., McDermott), said he did not believe they had changed their positions based on the changes the Senate made.

The highway patrol, however, had helped to write the new language dealing with unloaded guns in vehicles and the FOP’s opposition may have at least softened.

“Taking out the reciprocity was a big deal,” FOP spokesman Mike Weinman said. “That went a long way.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0946.



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