Ohio House approves looser gun laws

Ohio House members approved loosening the state’s gun laws during a marathon session Wednesday afternoon, including allowing most adults to carry a concealed weapon without a license and significantly cutting down training requirements to carry guns in schools.

Under the legislation, anyone age 21 or older who is not otherwise prohibited from carrying concealed weapons could do so without a license — and any sort of legal weapon, not just a handgun.

“Anyone currently prohibited from purchasing a firearm under Ohio or federal law will still be prohibited from purchasing or carrying a firearm under House Bill 227,” said cosponsor state Rep. Kris Jordan, R-Ostrander.

His fellow cosponsor, state Rep. Thomas Brinkman, R-Mt. Lookout, said concealed carry training and licensing would still be available for those who want to carry across state lines.

Gun rights groups hailed the vote.

“Ohio is far behind other states in recognizing Ohioans’ right to freely carry firearms without a burdensome licensing process,” Dean Rieck, executive director of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said in a news release. “There is no other constitutional right where we tolerate so many barriers. In 21 other states, no licensing is required.”

The bill also says people would not automatically have to notify law enforcement that they have a weapon in their vehicles when stopped by police, Brinkman said.

Democrats denounced the bill and offered several amendments to soften it. Republicans voted them all down.

“You know there’s only one thing you need to read about this bill. It’s called the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Brinkman said.

But many Republicans joined Democrats in voting down an amendment by state Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana, which would have put language back in the bill offering blanket immunity from prosecution for people who used a concealed weapon to protect themselves or others.

Ultimately the bill passed by a 60-32 vote. It will now head to the Senate.

Substitute House Bill 99, sponsored by state Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Middletown, would exempt people authorized to carry guns in a school zone from the basic training required of peace officers.

School districts can permit their teachers and staff to be armed, but with hundreds of hours of required training, Hall said. His bill would set a minimum for training, but not a maximum, allowing school districts to require as much as they see fit.

The minimum would be 20 hours of initial training and four hours of recurring training, Hall said.

School boards would be required to notify the public of changes in their gun-carrying policies, he said.

Hall previously said his bill is the clarity requested by the Ohio Supreme Court when justices ruled 4-3 this summer that if school staff and teachers are armed by their districts, they’ll need the same level of training as law enforcement officers, which is more than 700 hours.

Several Democrats denounced the bill, urging that training and public notice requirements be increased.

State Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Butler Twp., said that as former Montgomery County sheriff he was skeptical of the bill, but changed his mind after helping to train teachers. It can take a long time, particularly in rural counties, for law enforcement to respond to reports of a school shooting, he said.

“We’ve got to arm these teachers to give our kids a fighting chance,” Plummer said.

The bill passed 58-33. It will now head to the Senate.

A bill to ban ban “spoofing” — making a call appear to come from a different, often familiar number — also passed the House on Wednesday. It passed the Senate 31-1 in May, and is headed for Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk.

Senate Bill 54, sponsored by state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, would prohibit an intended fraudster from making a caller ID service “transmit inaccurate or misleading caller identification information.”

State Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, endorsed the bill’s specific penalties for defrauding the elderly, disabled and members of the military. It would elevate the offense from a fifth-degree felony to the fourth degree if one of those groups was the target. A fourth degree felony carries a potential sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

House members passed the bill 77-2.

It would bring Ohio law in line with the federal Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, its Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The Dayton region received more than 16.5 million robocalls in September, according to YouMail, which tracks robocalls. That works out to more than 550,000 per day. YouMail estimates that about 42% of those robocalls calls are alerts or payment reminders, but that about 31% are scams.

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