DeWine signs bill allowing ‘constitutional carry’ in Ohio

Ohioans will soon be able to carry concealed handguns without a permit, known as “constitutional carry,” after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine this week signed Senate Bill 215 into law.

SB 215 passed the General Assembly on March 2. After getting the governor’s signature Monday, it will go into effect in 90 days. It was hailed by supporters as a historic Second Amendment victory and decried by critics as making the streets more dangerous.

DeWine did not release a statement on why he signed the bill.

Bill sponsor state Sen. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, called it “an important step in restoring Ohioans’ Second Amendment rights.”

“If you are a law abiding citizen openly carrying in Ohio, which is already allowed by Ohio law, and decide to put on a jacket or sweatshirt that would conceal your firearm, you are now breaking the law,” Johnson said. “Responsible gun owners should not be punished for lawfully practicing their constitutional rights, and this bill solves that problem.”

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The bill allows anyone at least 21 who is legally allowed to have a gun be able to carry a concealed handgun without a permit. It also removes the requirement for eight hours of gun safety training and a background check to carry a concealed weapon.

Also, if a driver is stopped by police, that person would no longer be required to inform officers of the concealed weapon unless specifically asked.

Support for the bill in the General Assembly fell along party lines, generally supported by Republicans and opposed by Democrats.

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Other opponents of the bill included the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, and Nan Whaley, a Democratic candidate for governor who was mayor of Dayton during the city’s deadliest mass shooting in August 2019 when a gunman killed nine and injured 37 people in the city’s historic Oregon District.

“After a mass shooting in Dayton, Gov. DeWine promised to do something to reduce gun violence. At every turn, he’s broken that promise,” Whaley said. “Signing this bill will make everyone in our communities, including our police officers, less safe. DeWine’s decision to sign this dangerous bill is shameless and disgraceful.”

Dion Green, a survivor of the mass shooting whose father, Derek Fudge of Springfield was shot and killed, called on the governor to veto the bill.

Supporters include the Buckeye Firearms Association, which called this bill the “brass ring” of their efforts since licensed concealed carry was allowed in Ohio about 18 years ago.

“This is a great moment for Ohio and for those who wish to more fully exercise their constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” said Buckeye Firearms Association Executive Director Dean Rieck. “Gov. DeWine made a campaign promise to Buckeye Firearms Association and to Ohio’s 4 million gun owners that he would sign a constitutional carry bill if it was put on his desk. And he has fulfilled his promise.”

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Toby Hoover, founder of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, said DeWine “took another step today in putting our families in danger by allowing more guns on the streets of Ohio.”

“As a gun violence survivor, I am insulted that as governor, he is defining the culture of violence in Ohio by showing our children that one must be armed and fearful,” Hoover said. “I am ashamed of the governor and the legislators that are putting themselves and their fears first. It is time to put our kids first, instead of the gun lobby that our legislators so actively partner with.”

Former Cincinnati mayor John Cranley, who is running against Whaley for the Democratic nomination for Ohio governor said: “It’s going to lead to killings ... It’s going to put police officers in harms way ... It’s an outrageous piece of legislation that stains Mike DeWine’s soul.”

Republican challenger for governor Jim Renacci, meanwhile, criticized DeWine for not signing the bill quicker.

“Ohio gun owners should make no mistake that the only reason DeWine decided at the 11th hour to sign this bill is because his reelection campaign is in serious trouble,” Renacci said. “I would not have hesitated to sign this bill even for a moment, let alone view it as a ‘tough decision’ like DeWine did.”