COLUMBUS — A mistake in writing up an Ohio bill could inadvertently ban several types of already legal guns and must be fixed quickly, gun rights advocates say.
At issue is legislation approved by lawmakers last year that allows off-duty police officers to carry firearms and phases in pre-emption of many local firearms restrictions, among other changes.
The bill also attempted to align Ohio law with federal law regarding short-barrel weapons, or generally speaking shotguns with barrel lengths less than 16 inches.
Such guns are legal under federal law but classified as illegal in Ohio, even though many gun stores sell them. As the bill was being drafted, a misplaced paragraph unintentionally lumped a variety of long guns into a prohibited category.
Those could include semi-automatic AK-47s and any long gun with a pistol grip, which could also affect shotguns used in competitive shooting.
It's unclear if the mistake would cause gun owners problems in "real-world terms," said Dean Rieck, executive director of the gun rights group Buckeye Firearms, who said who said he's consulted with lawyers for the National Rifle Association and Ohio's Legislative Services Commission, among others.
Nevertheless, "We would prefer they deal with it immediately because it is causing a lot of concern and confusion among gun owners in Ohio," Rieck said.
Republicans who control the Senate don't believe the error would affect the way the law, which takes effect in late March, is applied. "However, members have prepared an amendment that would remove any alleged ambiguity," said John Fortney, a Senate GOP spokesman.
Republican House Speaker Larry Householder plans to examine the issue further, said spokeswoman Gail Crawley.
One option is fixing the error in the state budget, which will be introduced March 15 but won't be passed into law until July 1. Such a delay is unacceptable, said Chris Dorr, executive director of Ohio Gun Owners.
Without a quick solution, "it has the potential to make us all felons," he said.
The mistake illustrates the problem of rushing legislation through a lame duck session, said Sen. Cecil Thomas, a Democrat from Cincinnati.
"It's just a bad way to do business now, and mistakes are made, and this is an example of that," said Thomas, a retired police officer.