Report finds disqualified Ohioans had concealed-carry permits

Court-ruled mental incompetence is supposed to prevent Ohioans from having a concealed handgun license (CHL), but a report released by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office shows that hasn’t always happened.

Of Ohio’s approximately 700,000 CHL permit holders, the report found 41 people who legally shouldn’t have the license, and there were more of them in Montgomery County than in any other Ohio county, according to the report.

“Those 41 individuals represent only a tiny fraction of a percentage of the Ohioans who have concealed-carry licenses, and we are not aware that any harmful outcomes have resulted,” Attorney General Dave Yost said in a statement. “But even one unlawful license is too many.”

Of those 41 people, six were declared mentally incompetent by a court before receiving the license. The rest were declared mentally incompetent after receiving the license.

The 41 licensees span 17 counties. Montgomery County had eight licensees with a mental disqualification, the most of any of Ohio’s 88 counties. Hamilton, Clermont and Franklin counties had the next most licensees with mental disqualifications, with five people in each county.

The report used data from Ohio’s concealed handgun license list maintained by the Ohio Department of Public Safety and cross-checked it with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations’ list of individuals deemed mentally incompetent by a court. That list has been maintained since 2004 and contains about 30,000 names.

County sheriff’s offices were notified of the Attorney General’s findings and advised to verify the findings and revoke licenses from wrongful holders. Sheriffs are authorized to both issue and revoke the licenses.

Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Christine Ton said in an email that none of the individuals in Montgomery County were declared mentally incompetent before receiving their licenses and that currently the only way the sheriff’s office knows when permits need to be revoked is when they are notified by the BCI.

“Our office takes immediate action any time we are notified that an individual may have been deemed mentally incompetent,” she said.

Ton said the office has also reached out to the BCI to touch base ensure there are no additional individuals who have been found who may need their license revoked.

Ohioans can currently obtain a concealed handgun license after taking an eight hour concealed-carry training class and passing a background check to screen out those with felony convictions or court rulings of mental incompetence. Licenses must be renewed every five years.

The fact that the CHL and mental incompetence databases are maintained by separate state agencies “creates a bureaucratic roadblock to such reviews, directly contributing to the system’s vulnerabilities,” according to the report.

Other gaps in the system include the lack of an automated notification system when a CHL holder is deemed incompetent, and sometimes a lack of prompt reporting by courts, according to the report.

To remedy some of these problems, Yost’s office partnered with the Ohio Department of Public Safety in recent months to create an automated system allowing the Bureau of Criminal Investigations to crosscheck CHL and mental incompetence databases regularly. The system was created at no cost to taxpayers, the report said.

Ton said this “would streamline this process so that the issuing agency can immediately take action on the CHL in question.”

Yost said in a statement that revoking wrongfully issued licenses is one way existing gun laws should be enforced before creating new ones. There are currently more than two dozen bills pending in the Ohio General Assembly seeking to alter gun regulations.

“We’re always saying, ‘Why introduce new laws if you’re not enforcing current laws?’ … Why not enforce the laws that are already on the books and see what happens first?” said Dean Rieck, executive director of Buckeye Firearms Association.

Toby Hoover of Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence said the report shows promise in improving the system of enforcing current laws.

“It shows that they’re going to take some action to make that reporting better between courts and the background system, and that’s always been something that has needed to be done. So that’s wonderful,” she said.

Still, she said the report doesn’t tell the whole story.

“It’s pretty misleading as far as I’m concerned, because it’s only the people that have been adjudicated by a court,” she said. She believes many others may not be mentally fit to carry a concealed weapon but their mental health records are “private health stuff.”

Rieck said he thinks the report shows that the current licensing system is working well, as only about .006 percent of licensees were part of the report.

“Of the 41 people who were named out of the 700,000, not only is there no evidence that they committed any crime, they actually went out and got a license,” he said. “The people we need to worry about are the ones who aren’t following the law at all.”

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