Drivers could bring guns to the Statehouse or Riffe Center garages, as long as the weapons are left in their vehicles, under a bill that got final legislative approval yesterday.
But before passing it, the Ohio Senate, at the request of Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, stripped out a major provision from House Bill 495 that automatically would have required Ohio to recognize concealed-carry licenses from other states.
Law-enforcement officials had expressed significant concerns about the unlimited reciprocity provision, arguing that it would allow people to carry guns in Ohio who have gone through less training and less-rigorous background checks than are required for Ohio concealed-carry licensees.
The Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio also noted that the bill would have allowed someone who did not qualify for a concealed-carry license in Ohio to simply go to a neighboring state with less-restrictive requirements.
Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, acknowledged that was a fair concern, and he successfully had the reciprocity provision removed from the bill. Both he and Sen. Larry Obhof Jr., R-Montville Township, said they will continue working on the provision next year with law enforcement.
"This is a provision we need to act upon, but we need to do it right," Seitz said.
Niehaus said he was concerned about whether people from other states carrying guns in Ohio have the right training. "So rather than leave that loophole, I asked that that provision be removed," he said. "I felt it was important to ensure there was full discussion."
The bill, pushed by the National Rifle Association and other Ohio pro-gun-rights groups, also says that a concealed-carry licensee no longer has to demonstrate range competency when renewing the license for a second time. Supporters said the requirement is vague and unnecessary.
In addition, the bill would allow people without concealed-carry licenses to now carry loaded ammunition magazines in their vehicles, so long as they are stored in a compartment separate from the unloaded gun.
The House went along with the Senate changes, though they were not necessarily happy with the " vast, cool and mysterious ways of the Senate," as described by bill sponsor Rep. Terry Johnson, R- McDermott. But Johnson said it was still a good bill that "restores a portion of our constitutional rights."
Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney, D-Cincinnati, was among the Democrats who questioned why it was necessary to allow people to bring guns to the Statehouse parking garage. Obhof noted that several other state legislatures allow guns in and around their capitol buildings, and the proposal was developed with the State Highway Patrol.
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