President Obama’s executive orders on gun regulations have people on both sides of the issue asking about Ohio’s gun laws.
Some things about Ohio’s gun laws won’t change. Ohioans still will have to be 18 years old to buy rifles or shotguns and 21 years old to buy handguns, and they’ll still have to go through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. But gun control advocates say there will be changes in regulations for people who sell guns but aren’t yet registered dealers. Toby Hoover with the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence said, “This is an attempt to tighten them up so that people that are selling guns all the time – some of them at gun shows, some of them at flea markets, they’re making a living with it – they’re really dealers. And when you are a registered dealer, you have to do a background check.”
But Dean Rieck with the Buckeye Firearms Association said while he opposes Obama’s executive actions, he’s not sure they’ll have any real impact at all. “Changing that law or modifying it slightly or redefining who is a dealer and who isn’t – that really isn’t going to touch the people where you’re having the problem. It might make it slightly more difficult to sell a firearm,” Rieck said. “What will be defined as a dealer and what won’t? They’ve really left that open-ended.”
Most of the biggest changes in gun laws have come not from the federal government, but at the state level. In 2004, carrying a concealed weapon became legal in Ohio. Some cities responded with their own gun bans, which created a patchwork of gun laws across the state. But in 2006, the state passed a pre-emption law stating state law trumped local laws, overturning about 80 local ordinances in more than 20 Ohio cities. Rieck said there was a simple reason – to help law-abiding gun owners stay that way.
“Every municipality, every area you would go to would have a slightly different set of laws. And honest people could find themselves in trouble,” Rieck said. “That’s why the whole pre-emption thing happened. And now, more or less, the rules are the same all over Ohio.”
But Hoover said that was devastating to cities that had passed gun bans because they felt they would be safer under them. “People could look at their communities and say, ‘this is what we want, this is what works here, this city is a lot different than that one.’ And they came in on the premise that they were making all the concealed-carry laws the same, but in reality what they were doing was pre-empting all local laws,” Hoover said.
While laws across Ohio are the same, that’s not true for the rest of the country. About two dozen states that have concealed-carry laws allow Ohioans with CCW permits to carry in their states as well. But Virginia has decided that after February 1, it will no longer honor CCW permits from Ohio and 24 other states that have laws Virginia considered too lenient. Gun rights activists say that decision was political, noting that it was made by Virginia's attorney general, a Democrat.
Ohio’s gun laws will likely continue to change. The latest proposal is a plan to allow concealed-carry weapons permit holders to carry in day cares, parts of airports, police stations, and other areas considered “victim zones”. It’s passed the House but has yet to have a Senate committee hearing. Rieck said proposed gun legislation is more about what he calls “clean-up actions” on laws that were written poorly or impose restrictions that don’t do anything about violence and criminal activity. “I wish lawmakers would focus on crime rather than on guns or gun owners – because that’s not where the problem is coming from,” Rieck said.
Hoover said she expects more gun law changes from Republican leadership, which she admits frustrates her. “They’re not open to conversation; they’re not open to seeing any studies, to anything. For them, it is all about guns and nobody telling them what they can do or not do with them,” Hoover said.
Other bills that have been proposed but not passed include measures to allow concealed-carry in school zones and to allow legally qualified Ohioans to carry concealed weapons without first getting permits.