OHIO COURT RULING SHOULD SPUR LAWMAKERS TO ENACT CCW REFORM LEGISLATION

Thursday, January 10th, 2002

Today’s ruling that Ohio’s ban on carrying concealed firearms is unconstitutional should spur lawmakers in the Buckeye State to enact concealed carry reform legislation now under consideration, said leaders of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA).

“There is certainly ample handwriting on the wall for lawmakers to get back to work on crafting a bill that lives up to the guarantees in Ohio’s constitution,” said CCRKBA Executive Director Joe Waldron. “This case has revealed how the citizens’ firearms civil rights can be abused under the kind of nebulous statute that was just struck down. It is time to write a responsible law that protects citizens.”

Waldron said the decision, by Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman, amounts to a signal for Gov. Bob Taft and the Ohio Legislature to resolve the state’s concealed carry dilemma. He noted that their failure to enact reasonable legislation forced the plaintiffs to seek a solution in court to the present unconstitutional statute.

“Gov. Taft is partially to blame for this situation,” Waldron said. “Initially, during his campaign, he promised to sign a concealed carry bill. Later, he blurred the issue by claiming he would sign a concealed carry law only if law enforcement supported it. Then, after the largest state sheriff’s organization supported a concealed carry proposal, Taft again moved the line, saying he would not sign a bill unless it had backing from more law enforcement groups. That convinced the plaintiffs in this case that there would never be a CCW law, no matter how well it was crafted.”

Under Judge Ruehlman’s decision, law-abiding, mentally competent adults can now carry guns concealed and have loaded guns in their vehicles in Hamilton County, as provided in the state constitution, without fear of being arrested and prosecuted. It is similar to the scenario in Vermont, where unlicensed concealed carry has been constitutionally-protected by a 99-year-old State Supreme Court ruling. Under the Ohio Constitution, citizens have the inalienable right to defend themselves, their liberty and property, and to bear arms for defense and security.

Judge Ruehlman found that the Ohio laws banning concealed carry and carrying loaded guns in motor vehicles were unconstitutional. Police in Hamilton County have been fully aware of the constitutional protections, but have continued making arrests under the law, requiring citizens to appear in court, at great personal expense and risk, to present an affirmative defense before such charges could be dismissed.

Plaintiff Pat Feely was one of the unfortunate citizens who had been previously arrested and tried under the gun carry ban scheme. Both the prosecutor and the judge in that case stated that the law should be changed or repealed. Feely was acquitted at trial, but he risked the same charges in the future if found carrying a concealed.

Waldron noted: “Despite what some gun ban proponents have suggested, declaring the ban unconstitutional will not mean that criminals, juveniles and other prohibited persons can carry firearms. Those prohibitions remain in place, and to say otherwise is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public.