Yesterday afternoon I had to make a return to the KMart store in New Boston. I arrived there, walked into the store and proceeded to the customer service counter, which faced the entry door. As I was waiting my turn in a short line of customers, I saw a nice-looking young couple with a small baby enter the store. At first, I thought nothing of their presence, but then I noticed something on the hip of the man. I looked closer. There, in a holster strapped to his side was a handgun.
I confess the couple did not look threatening or aggressive in any way; however, I was shocked to see someone feeling the need to strap on a gun and enter my local KMart. I watched them very carefully as they casually began to stroll the aisles. They walked out of sight, but I did inform the cashier that someone had just entered the store with a handgun and asked about their responsibility for the safety of customers.
The cashier told me that it was perfectly legal to carry the weapon and there was nothing the store was required to do about the situation. I asked, "How do you determine when someone enters your store with a gun to commit an armed robbery or worse?" She answered that security would take care of such an illegal entry. Security? My mind raced to Mayberry and Barney Fife armed with an unloaded firearm and a single bullet in his pocket.
I know a little about Ohio's concealed carry law. I am fully aware many people lawfully carry concealed weapons into public places. Yet, something about this couple with the baby and the open carry consumed my thoughts. I was awash with emotions of distrust, awe, and sadness. For God's sake, this man had the weapon in plain view for all to fear.
What the hell is the world coming to when people feel the need to sport a firearm in broad daylight when shopping at KMart? I am so glad I don't have that kind of fear for my life and the lives of my loved ones.
Yesterday, I began to feel ashamed that my community had to harbor mentalities of the old, wild West. I was very disturbed about publicly armed residents fearing for their safety and about a perception of rampant lawlessness that has evidently caused such a desperate need for self protection.
Unsure of Ohio open and concealed public carry laws and full of questions, I returned home to do some research. What I found was revealing and very interesting. And, please, correct me if my of my findings are inaccurate. I am no authority in such matters, and I do not want to spread any half-truths or misconceptions.
Ohio Concealed Carry
First, let me review my findings about Ohio restrictions on concealed carry.
Section 2923.126 of Ohio law sets forth several places where residents are not allowed to carry a handgun. People cannot carry a concealed handgun into the following places:
• Police stations
• Sheriffs’ offices
• Highway Patrol posts. Premises controlled by the Ohio Bureau • of Criminal Identification and Investigation.
• Correctional institutions or other detention facilities
• Airport terminals or commercial airplanes.
• Institutions for the care of mentally ill persons.
• Courthouses or buildings in which a courtroom is located.
• Universities, unless locked in a motor vehicle or in the process of being locked in a motor vehicle.
• Places of worship, unless the place of worship permits otherwise.
• Child day care centers.
• Government facilities that are not used primarily as a shelter, restroom, parking facility for motor vehicles, or rest facility and is not a courthouse or a building or structure in which a courtroom is located.• School safety zones. A “school safety zone” includes a school, school building, school premises, school activity, and school bus. For purposes of this statute, a school includes everything up to the property boundary. The law generally forbids the carrying of a handgun in a school safety zone unless all of the following apply:
You do not enter a school building, premises or activity; and you have a concealed carry license or temporary emergency license; and you are not otherwise in one of the forbidden places listed above and detailed in R.C. 2923.126 (B); or
You are a driver or passenger in a motor vehicle immediately in the process of picking up or dropping off a child, and you are not otherwise in violation of the laws governing the transportation of firearms in motor vehicle.
Ohio Open Carry
Now, let me show you what I discovered about open carry. According to the Buckeye Firearms Association ...
"Nothing in Ohio’s concealed carry law requires a license holder to carry their firearm strictly concealed. Rather, Ohio’s concealed carry law is mostly a series of exceptions to the existing criminal statutes.
"For instance, see Revised Code § 2923.12(C)(2). The main statute, § 2923.12(A)(2), prohibits carrying a concealed handgun, and section (C)(2) simply states that the main statute does not apply to someone with a Concealed Handgun License.
"While some states do require strict concealment by their license holders, Ohio has not taken this approach. Further, there is nothing in Ohio’s concealed carry law that requires a license holder to forfeit their constitutional and statutory right to bear arms in order to obtain a Concealed Handgun License. Thus, a person who has been issued a Concealed Handgun License may still openly carry a firearm if they chose to do so, provided all other laws are observed."
Evidently, in Ohio, you have never needed a permit to carry a gun in public, and you still don't --- you just can't conceal it. As long as you haven't been convicted of a felony, if you want to wear a pistol on your belt or walk around town carrying a shotgun, Ohio has no law against it.
Open carry is a legal activity in Ohio provided the person is not under disability (prohibited from owning firearms, legally intoxicated, etc.), though is subject to applicable state and federal laws (certain premises are off limits). An important side note is that carrying a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle without a concealed handgun license is not permitted in Ohio.
You can open carry a rifle if you are over the age of 18, but not a handgun. You cannot open carry a handgun unless you are 21 in Ohio, regardless of any other State's law pertaining to the legal age to carry, or ownership of a handgun.
Some "Open" Occurrences In Ohio
Here is a news story from Parma in 2009.
Bill Carlisle went to a Parma Taco Bell while openly carrying a firearm, and witnesses claimed they thought they "were about to witness a robbery." Jared Leon diligently called the police. He claimed Carlisle was "looking around all crazy."
The police responded and during the course of the stop, Carlisle repeatedly pleaded his case that open carry is legal and that simply carrying a gun was not cause to be detained. He told officers that he had been carrying openly for a long time and that his reason for doing so was that he did not have a concealed handgun license yet.
The police officers on the scene offered up numerous scenarios and explanations while waiting to hear back from a supervisor whether or not he had broken any laws. In the end Carlisle had not broken the law. It was determined that personal bias against armed citizens can't dictate a person's actions, only the law does.
"We as a city, as a police department don't agree with it, but we're stuck with it," said Captain Robert Desimone of the Parma Police Department. "That's the law, we have to uphold it."
(Daniel White. "Fox News in Ohio Covers Open Carry of a Firearm.
examiner.com. March 20, 2009)
Here is another case of open carry reported by The Columbus Dispatch reported in 2008.
"Philip Turner, then 30, was walking from his Hilliard apartment to his parked truck wearing a gun on his belt. At the time, Turner worked protecting banks' ATMs as they were serviced and delivering diamonds to jewelry stores.
"An undercover agent with the Ohio Investigative Unit -- the police agency that enforces the state's alcohol, tobacco and food-stamp laws -- saw the gun and quickly ordered him against his truck with his hands on his head.
"'He came up and treated me like a felon for absolutely no reason at all,' Turner said. 'There wasn't even a suspicious action on my part to warrant him taking this action against me. Had I been out waving a gun around the parking lot, (then) yeah.'
"After being detained for about 30 minutes, and after Hilliard police arrived at the agent's request, Turner was released without charges. An internal investigation that concluded this week found that neither Agent Timothy Gales, who had stopped Turner, nor his partner, Betty Ford, did anything wrong.
"However, it also revealed that Gales did not know it was legal for Turner to carry a gun openly, said Lindsay Komlanc, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety. As a result, more than 100 agents in the unit are to attend a mandatory refresher course on Ohio's gun laws over the next couple of months, she said.
"The investigation report said that, weeks before Turner was stopped, agents stopped a 13- or 14-year-old boy who was carrying a rifle in public. They called his mother, who retrieved the gun. Then they called a supervisor to figure out what charge to file against the boy.
"The answer: nothing. The supervisor advised them that 'it was their right to carry a gun openly and they were allowed to do this,' according to the report.
"Ohio law says you can't sell a gun to people younger than 18 or provide them with one, except for 'hunting, sporting or educational purposes,' said Lt. Shawn Davis of the State Highway Patrol. A child must take a gun-safety course before going hunting, Davis added.
"It's not illegal 'that we see' for a juvenile of any age to carry a gun in public, said Jennifer Brindisi, a spokeswoman for the Ohio attorney general's office.
"Turner, who has a license to carry a concealed gun, said he was carrying his gun openly 'because it's my right. I choose to exercise my right to protect myself.' He doesn't know whether the two agents pulled their guns; he was instructed not to face them. The agents told investigators they didn't."
(Billl Bush. "Openly Carrying a Gun Not a Crime."
The Columbus Dispatch
Yet, it wouldn't be unreasonable for officers to draw their guns until they know what the situation is, said Sgt. Rich Weiner of the Columbus Police Division.
"The first thing we need to address: This man has a gun," Weiner said. "We're going to pull our guns. As a police officer, we also have the right to protect ourselves and protect the public, so we do have the right to disarm him momentarily. Now everybody is a little bit more at ease. We don't have a potential weapon being used against an officer or anybody else."
According to Weiner, Ohio law says that if the open display of a firearm is causing panic, the gun owner could be charged with inducing panic. "If you carry it onto private property, you could be charged with trespassing," he said.
People are carrying handguns on open display in public shopping areas and restaurants filled with people -- babies, children, women, senior citizens. Many who tote these weapons have attitudes and believe they have something to prove about their gun rights. Many of them are evidently in great fear of others who might attack innocent people in a crowd. Many others feel their guns give them the edge in a society that is largely lawless. This volatile mix spells potential death and destruction to me.
Just who are the "bad guys" these days? And, how should we deal with them?
I completely understand the need for self protection. But, it's the combination of fear and bravado possessed by those who choose to open carry that concerns me. These are not new emotions by any means. Even the friendly handshake was born of distrust and a little danger. Supposedly, an ancient Roman man who approached another made it a habit to grab the person's forearm to be sure the man was not concealing a knife in his toga sleeve.
The thought of open weapons in public brings me to another silly idea. Why shouldn't those who fear for their lives openly carry swords in scabbards? Is anyone foolish enough to believe that scores of such "lawful" ninjas in KMart would be considered "normal" and "expedient" to insuring public safety?
But, in the case of an occasional "nut" with a sword bent on killing innocents, wouldn't you rather face him with his knife than with a handgun? Is it legal for Ohio residents to openly carry knives? Do they have to take a knife-training course to do so? Where can they carry? At what age can they carry?
Let me answer some questions about blades. Do you know it is legal to own any type of knife in Ohio? I can find no age restriction in the law. Also, Ohio law does not restrict the concealed carry of any specific knife except for what it calls a “dangerous ordnance” which includes ballistic knives.
"Ballistic" knives? That term sounds like a reference to a firearm, not a blade. It may surprise you what the law considers to be a "ballistic knife." In fact, Ohio law seems stricter on carrying blades than on carrying guns.
The concealed carry statute in Ohio simply makes it illegal to conceal carry any deadly weapon. The Ohio Supreme Court said in State v. Anderson, that to convict a defendant of carrying a concealed deadly weapon, the state must prove that the instrument is capable of inflicting death and that it is either designed or adapted for use as a weapon or that it is being carried as a weapon. Some knives that are very likely to be found to deadly weapons, and therefore illegal to conceal carry include:
- Dirks, daggers, or other stabbing knives
- Balisong, or butterfly knives
- Gravity knives
- Dirks, daggers, or other stabbing knives
- Balisong, or butterfly knives
- Gravity knives
One last thought on the "safe," armed couple I saw at KMart. I couldn't help but wonder if the man loaded the handgun after parking his car since he isn't allowed to carry a loaded weapon in his vehicle. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) And, how about the safety of the baby? Was the child in the vehicle in the presence of a loaded gun? Shooting accidents can and do happen. What risks were taken? Who might have been in danger?
Here is my stand. I don't want to carry a handgun or a knife into KMart. I must be one of the "foolish" people who feels I don't need to do it. Those who do so shock me and make me extremely wary. Anyway, most of my shopping experiences do not lack for excitement.
It's enough of a deadly encounter to dodge KMartians and WalMartians trying to run over me in the parking lot trying to get that close open parking space. I don't need the added consumer suspense of dealing with Southern Ohio gunslingers and swashbucklers inside the stores. Does anyone have some Kevlar body armor for sale ... and cheap, please? After all, I'm looking for the blue light special. (I guess I just showed my age.)