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OPINION: 5 proposed gun laws, ranked

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A shooting range. Photo via jamalfanaian on Flickr.

There are five bills currently before the Ohio Senate that could alter gun laws in the state. Opinion writer Michael Broerman ranks them from most reckless to most reasonable.

The mass shooting in Las Vegas this October, the deadliest in modern American history, at least since the last deadliest in modern American history happened in Orlando in 2016, has brought the issue of gun control back into the limelight. This is an annual tradition in America, just like Thanksgiving or debating the morality of Christopher Columbus. Rather than writing the millionth generic opinion piece about gun control that throws out wishful thinking and lofty ideas, here is a list of the five pieces of gun legislation that will go before the Ohio State Senate in the coming months.

5. Duty to Notify Police (HB 142)

The order of this list goes from most reckless to most reasonable, top to bottom.  So it seems fitting that House Bill 142 should start things off. The bill would eliminate the requirement that anybody carrying a concealed weapon must notify a police officer when stopped. Given the fact that you can turn on the news pretty much any given week and see an unarmed black man killed by a police officer who thought he had a gun, this seems like a no-brainer rejection.

STATUS: HB 142 was referred to the FIR committee who produced a report on how the proposed bill would differ from current policy in September. No vote has taken place in the House on the bill.

4. Carry at Will (HB 201)

This is another one of the pending bills that that is baffling how it exited somebody’s mouth and made it onto paper.  House Bill 201 would allow any law-abiding Ohio citizen over the age of 21 to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. The bill also includes the meat of House Bill 142 (above) and in addition to abolishing the need for gun owners to get a permit to conceal a deadly weapon in public, it would also allow any weapon already not prohibited by law (not just handguns) to be a concealed-carry weapon. Basically saying that if you can hide it, you can fire it.

One might, correctly, ask “who in their right mind would support, let alone sponsor, this bill?” Well the answer may shock you. The primary sponsor of this bill, Rep. Ron Hood (R) , ironically has also sponsored a bill to abolish the death penalty. I’m starting to get the feeling that he just has a rubber stamp for sponsoring bills and some intern got a hold of it.

STATUS: HB 201 has been referred to the Federalism and Interstate Relations (FIR) committee and will not be considered for a vote in the House until the committee publishes a report on the bill and how it would differ from current policy.

3. Stand Your Ground (SB 180, HB 228)

Most people in Ohio are already under the impression that we are a “Stand Your Ground” state. This is only partially true. The current policy in Ohio is what is known as the “Castle Doctrine” in which licensed gun-owners are legally allowed to defend themselves with the use of deadly force when faced with “imminent danger” inside their home or vehicle. The proposed bill would change current Ohio law which requires the gun-owner to retreat to safety before resorting to deadly force. It would also hand over the legal burden of proof of proving that the victim was in fear of his/her life from the defense to the prosecution.

The current “Castle Doctrine” has come under fire in a notable 2015 case in Cleveland, when David Hillis was charged with manslaughter after he killed a man who broke into his home as he fled the scene onto the street. The passing of SB 180 and HB 228 would have allowed him to shoot that man whether they were in the house or on the street.

STATUS: HB 228 has been referred to the FIR committee and will not be considered for a vote by the House until the committee publishes a report on the bill.

2. Banned Place Forgiveness (HB 233)

Proposed House Bill 233 would allow concealed-carry permit holders to avoid legal penalties if they bring a weapon into an area where guns are prohibited (bars, movie theaters, airports, churches, schools, etc.) and leave upon request. It would also allow that person to recommit the same crime, without penalty, every 30 days.

This is another bill that leans heavily on the “good guy with a gun” theory of stopping mass shootings. A study published by Stanford Law School professor John Donohue, among many others that have taken aim at the theory, shows that increased prevalence of gun presence actually increases the likelihood of violent crimes. Who knew?

STATUS: HB 233 has passed through the House and has been introduced to the Senate who assigned it to the Government Oversight and Reform committee who will produce a report on it before the Senate takes a vote.

1. Armed Elected Officials (HB 310)

House Bill 130 also concerns areas where guns are restricted, and also who specifically can carry them. Under HB 130, elected officials with concealed-carry permits or military training would be permitted to carry his or her weapon inside the statehouse.

This bill is for all of the Ohio elected officials who just don’t feel like a man without their six-shooters. Despite the fact that government buildings are some of the best protected of banned places (metal detectors, armed law enforcement, etc.), Rep. Nino Vitale of Ohio’s 85th District thinks they’d be just a bit safer from gun violence with more guns in the building. While they’re at it, they might as well propose another bill allowing opiates at drug-rehabilitation centers. Some may call that a false equivalency, but what epidemic is solved by more of the problem?

STATUS: HB 310 has been referred to the FIR committee who will produce a report on how the bill would differ from current policy before the House can take a vote.

For most of these bills, it is still too early to tell whether they will actually become law. However that does not mean there is all the time in the world to twiddle thumbs and wait for a decision to come down, and then raise hell. This is the time to call representatives and write letters, to show up and not shut up. The gun lobby in America is able to keep this country loaded only because of its willingness to actually show up and make noise. If you’re one of the many Americans who complains that gun laws never change, ask yourself: have your protesting and resistance tactics changed? Action requires action. If nothing changes, nothing changes

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