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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

House Bill 234 -- Conceal More, Carry More, Train Less

Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law House Bill 234, comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation.

As part of the changes, the new law ... 

(1) Reduces the number of training hours required from 12 to 8 hours to obtain an Ohio Concealed Handgun License (At least two of those hours would have to consist of in-person training; the remainder could be done either in-person or online.)

(2) Eliminates minimum length-of-residency requirements to obtain a concealed handgun license  (This scraps a rule that a concealed-handgun license applicant must be an Ohio resident for at least 45 days and a resident of the county for at least 30 days.)

Proponents of the changes say the law will make it easier for law-abiding citizens to bear arms and bolster proper safeguards.

However, gun-control advocates claim the changes will threaten public safety, as it would allow more people to carry concealed weapons in Ohio.  

One Ohio firearms instructor questions the purpose of the reduction in training. He said: "My students and I spend a scheduled 1 hour on the 'blue gun' in preparation for their range time. Besides going over grip and stance, the hour on the blue gun (rubber training gun) allows me reasonable assurance and confidence my students are handling firearms safely before they even touch a real gun. Secondly, it allows me the opportunity to evaluate each student, as much a possible, for mental competency.  Though it hasn't happened yet I know I would reject a student that didn't seem quite 'right.'"

“I’m very pleased to see this common sense reform bill pass the House,” said Representative Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) who sponsored the bill. He continued, “Infringing on even one of our rights granted to us by the Constitution is unacceptable. You sacrifice one, you might as well sacrifice them all. This bill takes away unnecessary laws that do nothing more than put law-abiding citizens at risk of accidental felonies.”

("Ohio Passes Firearm Bill to Modernize Reciprocity & Concealed Carry. June 19, 2012)

My Take

I support the right of the people to bear arms. I understand the need to own firearms to hunt and to protect the gun owner, his property, and his loved ones. Although I believe in gun control, I am not opposed to sensible gun ownership and responsible carry. At the same time, I am very concerned about some alarming statistics.

According to the National Center for Injury Prevention & Control and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010, guns took the lives of 31,076 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings.  This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour. Firearms were the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths nationwide in 2010, following poisoning and motor vehicle accidents.

That same year 73,505 Americans were treated in hospital emergency departments for non-fatal gunshot wounds.

How can a reduction in the number of training hours required to obtain a concealed handgun license be an improvement for gun safety? I am amazed that just two hours of in-person training could suffice for the required hours of concealed instruction. I view this as insufficient for public safety.

I see no "sacrifice" of anyone's Constitutional rights in the old training and residency requirements. Representative Johnson is on a slippery slope when he contends that so-called "infringing" on one gun right means "sacrificing them all." I also question his reasoning when he says the new bill "does nothing more than take away unnecessary laws that put law-abiding citizens at risk of accidental felonies."

Rhetoric invoking the Constitution and facts from shooting statistics often collide. The best interests of the public are served through laws that assure proper procedures are met before allowing a concealed firearm to join over 100 million handguns in the United States.

(Stat: U.S. Census Bureau, January 2009)

The United States ranks number one in the world in 2014 as the country with the highest gun per 100 residents rate at 90. (This is the number of privately owned small firearms divided by the number of residents.) The U.S. has over 50% more firearms per capita than the next two highest nations, Serbia and Yemen at about 0.55 and three times as many as major European countries such as France and Germany.

Even if the major argument of concealed-carry advocates is the need for personal protection, is it any wonder how sky-high handgun ownership in America has contributed to that need? This is a case of "fighting fire with fire." It seems the real problem is how to put out the dangerous, threatening blaze of criminals using their handguns illegally while preserving the flames of security for a frightened public who diligently follows rules and strict gun laws.

I see the problem of lax regulations contributing to easier access to triggers for criminals and for those who are not adequately trained. These folks are a definite danger to society when they conceal a firearm. Just as we realize our supreme duty to educate and train a teen driver, we must also make gun laws that help lessen the ever-present danger of being shot.

Just consider Ohio law for a probationary driver license holder under the age of 17. These drivers ...
* Are not permitted to operate a motor vehicle with more than one person who is not a family member in the vehicle, unless accompanied by the license holder's parent, guardian, or legal custodian. Studies conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have shown that one passenger doubles the risk of a crash among teen drivers, two passengers triple the risk, and three or more passengers increase the risk by more than six. 

* Are prohibited from driving between midnight and 6 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or guardian with the same exceptions as above. This is a change to the previous restriction of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

* If convicted of having committed one moving violation during the first six months of having a driver's license, may be required to be accompanied by a parent or guardian whenever operating a motor vehicle during the six-month period commencing on the date on which the person is convicted of or pleads guilty to the moving violation or until the person turns 17. 
(ODPS Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles)

Wow, this is a far cry from restriction on my driving days after my 16th birthday. Things change and threats change. Restrictions do not necessarily mean loss of guaranteed freedom, and they are often necessary to protect the public. Minimal Range hands-on firing without personal guidance nor private, customized instruction to improve a person's current skill set is too little gun training.

People like Eric Korn, who runs American Firearms Training, a website based in Harrisonburg, Virginia, offers online gun training. Korn, 33, said his 90-minute video offers in-depth information about pistol proficiency, safety, cleaning, storage and other issues. Korn is also quick to defend no need for training at all.

"According to the Second Amendment, there should not be any type of training requirement in order to carry firearm," he said. "That said, we feel our class is a very good compromise between practical hands-on training and no training at all."

Korn acknowledged that individuals are better prepared when their training includes time at a shooting range, but said the law was about the civil right to defend oneself, a right that's separate from the question of proficiency.

("Web Training May Suffice for Wisconsin Concealed-Carry." 
Associated Press and Fox News. July 10, 2011)

People like Eric Korn frighten me. Mouthing their sacred right to carry arms, they believe in no compromises, but are willing to use the system to appear concerned about gun safety. I think Mr. Korn should realize much has changed since 1789. Allowing concealed weapons on the body of every American without restriction is akin to frontier justice.

The State of Illinois was the last state to allow concealed carry (2013), and it requires a 16 hour concealed carry training course - twice as much as Ohio. I, personally, believe the more in-person, hands-on training by competent professionals, the better.

I would also remind advocates of less training that my rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must not be compromised by a fervor to free restrictions on firearms by revoking regulations that seem logical and necessary.

And, no, I do not believe in taking guns away from sensible, responsible individuals. That is a far slide down that old slippery slope I mentioned before. There is absolutely no indication that a regulation of gun control is going to cause such a significant, negative effect, much like an object taking a slip on the edge of a slope sliding all the way to the bottom. Ignoring the middle ground is the same as political partisanship denying compromise.

In Mechanisms of the Slippery Slope (2003), Eugene Volokh analyzes various types of such slippage. He uses the example "gun registration may lead to gun confiscation" to describe six types of slippage:
  1. Cost-lowering: Once all gun owners have registered their firearms, the government will know exactly from whom to confiscate firearms. Gun-control opponents argue against limits on the sale of "assault weapons" because the confiscation of sportsmen's shotguns will soon follow. Meanwhile, government officials defend their inflexible enforcement of a regulation, even in circumstances that some see as unfair, because allowing an exception would open the floodgates.
  2. Legal rule combination: Previously the government might need to search every house to confiscate guns, and such a search would violate the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Registration would eliminate that problem.
  3. Attitude altering: People may begin to think of gun ownership as a privilege rather than a right, and thus regard gun confiscation less seriously.
  4. Small change tolerance, colloquially referred to as the "boiling frog": People may ignore gun registration because it constitutes just a small change, but when combined with other small changes, it could lead to the equivalent of confiscation.
  5. Political power: The hassle of registration may reduce the number of gun owners, and thus the political power of the gun-ownership bloc.
  6. Political momentum: Once the government has passed this gun law it becomes easier to pass other gun laws, including laws like confiscation.
Oh my. How talk of gun control infuriates many people. Reason seems to evaporate as the debate intensifies. People become mistakenly convinced individuals are "all" or "none" in favor or against  anything to do with firearms. I abhor violence, yet that does not mean I abhor guns. It is the human maiming and human killing effects of these weapons that I believe we must radically reduce. I believe in education, and I see the loss of training for concealed carry to be injustice.

Hunters will be able to use suppressors while hunting. There was strong support for this from NRA, Buckeye Firearms Association, American Silencer Association, and sportsmen who will benefit from the reduced noise.
Coinciding with the suppressor language, those who want to buy a $200 tax stamp and get a suppressor will be able to have a sheriff conduct a background check as though one were applying for a Concealed Handgun License (CHL). If a person passes the background check, the sheriff will sign the Federally required paperwork. The purchaser will then send this paperwork to the BATFE to begin the Federal process.
The disqualifications for obtaining a CHL will be generally aligned with State and Federal law for possessing a gun. Currently there are those who are prohibited from possessing firearms who can still qualify for an Ohio CHL. However those with very minor records and can own a firearm may still not qualify for a CHL. This bill would make Ohio law more similar to standard practice throughout the country.
Ohio’s background checks will be strengthened. Better background checks enable sheriffs to know they are granting CHL’s to people who qualify for one. This change will help Ohio get reciprocity with Texas and possibly other states who refuse to sign agreements with Ohio because of the holes in our current background checks.
The application for a CHL will be deleted from Ohio Revised Code (ORC) and will be maintained by the Attorney General. This allows the A.G. to make needed changes in a timely manner instead of waiting for the legislative process. Removing words from code without changing the law is good policy.
Sheriffs will be permitted to use CHL funds for training. Many sheriffs conduct firearms training classes. These include CHL, hunter education, and Eddie Eagle classes.
The definition of an automatic firearms will be corrected to match what the Federal government and every other state define as an automatic firearm: a firearm that fires more than one round per pull of the trigger.
People who live outside Ohio but work in Ohio will be able to apply for an Ohio CHL in the county where they work or any adjacent county. OPOTC training will satisfy the training requirement and DD-214’s will now be accepted for 10 years vs. the current 6 years after issuance.
Currently, it is not a violation of Revised Code section 2911.21 (trespassing) to have a firearm in a “no guns” posted parking lot under state law. This bill clarifies that having a firearm in a posted parking will not trespass under any criminal law, not just 2911.21.
There are multiple sections of ORC that deal with restoration of rights. The problem is that some sections don’t recognize other sections. Persons have rights “restored” and then find out that this restoration of rights does not “count” for other sections of law. This conflict and confusion will be corrected.
Ohio citizens will be permitted to buy a long gun in any state. Currently Ohio citizens may only buy long guns from five contiguous states. That limitation dates back to the 1970’s before the NICS background check system. The bill would recognize that background checks are much improved. (Purchases of handguns are still limited to state of residence by Federal law.)
An Ohio license will not be revoked/suspended if a license holder moves out of state. It will remain valid until the state date of expiration. This is important because it allows time to apply for a license in the new state of residence.
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