Conceal-carry permit holders or members of the military who carry concealed handguns into schools, courthouses, or other prohibited areas could avoid charges if they obey a request to leave and don’t return for the next 30 days, under new Ohio House legislation introduced Tuesday.
House Bill 455, introduced by state Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus of suburban Canton, is the latest attempt by GOP state lawmakers to loosen Ohio’s gun-control laws.
Right now, people who bring concealed handguns into courthouses, schools, or businesses with signs prohibiting conceal-carry on the premises can be charged with a crime – usually a misdemeanor.
Under the bill, if people are found to be carrying a concealed handgun in such places and leave at the request of an owner or employee, they could not be charged. However, if the person refuses the request to leave or returns to the same place with their concealed handgun within the following 30 days, they could be charged with criminal trespass with a deadly weapon, a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.
Stoltzfus didn’t return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday. But in a letter to his fellow House members, he said the bill seeks to protect Ohio gun owners who unintentionally bring their concealed handgun into a prohibited area.
“Many Ohioans want to exercise their Constitutional rights without fear they will unknowingly violate the law or rights of business owners and be punished,” Stoltzfus wrote in the letter. He concluded: “There is a distinction between attempting to follow the law and unintentionally violating it, and proceeding with criminal intent. This bill acknowledges the difference.”
The bill has 20 co-sponsors so far – all of whom are Republicans.
It’s unclear whether HB455 will pass the legislature or not. But in recent years, the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly has passed a number of measures to loosen requirements on concealed firearms, including allowing military service members and veterans to carry without a permit and removing the state’s ban on conceal-carry on college campuses and several other locations.
In the wake of a 2019 mass shooting in Dayton, Gov. Mike DeWine put forward a number of gun-reform proposals, including a voluntary background check process for private gun sales and giving authorities greater power to send people with drug or alcohol problems to a psychiatric hospital, where they cannot legally have access to guns. Republican lawmakers have not acted on those.
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