It has been more than a year since the Sandy Hook shooting, and Ohio’s Republican-led legislature is still pushing for ways to make guns more available. Rather than listen to sound counsel from law enforcement about inviting violence, Republicans are determined to embrace an agenda that conforms to the extreme views of the National Rifle Association.
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee held a third hearing on a bill that would weaken the state’s law on carrying a concealed handgun. It would allow a person to carry a concealed handgun without a license (eliminating training and background checks), then claim he or she was in an occupation or circumstance that justified the weapon for defensive purposes.
John Gilchrist, the legislative counsel for the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, registered his organization’s objections, rightly viewing the bill’s provision as “another first step toward repealing the whole licensing process.”
Under another part of the bill, places of worship, day-care centers and homes, and government facilities would not automatically be off-limits to carriers of concealed handguns, gutting protections in existing law. The bill also would make it easier to carry a concealed weapon into a police department, university campus and school safety zone, rasing objections from ministers and the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.
Earlier this month, the House passed a bill that would allow school districts to make decisions behind closed doors about arming teachers and remove districts and educators from liability in a shooting incident. And late last year, the House approved a measure that would weaken training requirements for carrying a concealed handgun and end the requirement that one has a duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense.
Such dangerously expansive views of the Second Amendment place undue emphasis on the rights of gun owners, pushing aside the larger priority of public safety. Lawmakers also neglect the importance of training and background checks, plus the likelihood that guns brought into places such as schools and churches more likely will escalate violent confrontations rather than act as a deterrent.