Ohio Gun Carry Ban Struck Down as Unconstitutional: Hamilton County Joins Vermont in Allowing Unlicensed Gun Carry

Thursday, January 10th, 2002

Ohio’s ban on carrying concealed firearms has been struck down as unconstitutional in a landmark ruling. Within Hamilton County, law-abiding, mentally competent adults can now carry guns concealed and have loaded guns in their vehicles without fear of being arrested and prosecuted for exercising their rights under the Ohio Constitution. The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), a leading national gun owner rights organization, funded the lawsuit.

“This is one of the greatest victories for the Second Amendment Foundation and the citizens of Ohio,” stated SAF Founder Alan Gottlieb. “Not since SAF forced the city of Los Angeles to begin issuing concealed carry licenses have we earned such a clear win, and it feels great to strike down a gun control law using the Ohio Constitution.”

SAF’s lawsuit exposed the current scheme as a violation of the Ohio Constitution (Article 1, Section 1 [inalienable rights to defending life, liberty and property], Article 1, Section 4 [bear arms for defense and security], Article 1, Section 2 [equal protection] and Article 1, Section 16 [due process]). In addition, as Judge Ruehlman found in his decision, the current law treats people as if guilty until proven innocent!

The Ohio laws in question, R.C. 2923.12, bans all concealed carry of firearms with felony penalties for any violations while R.C. 2923.16 bans loaded guns in a motor vehicle. Only after a person is caught violating either of these provisions, and the person incurs the costs and stresses of a criminal trial, does the current law allow the possibility of an “affirmative defense” to be made. It was for this reason that the law was struck down.

Plaintiffs include Pat Feely, who was 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 Both the prosecutor and the judge in that case stated that the law should be changed or repealed. While Feely was acquitted at trial, he risked the same charges again if found carrying a concealed firearm in the future. The threat and costs of repeated prosecutions was only one of many reasons the current law was declared unconstitutional.

Mr. Feely carries large sums of cash as part of his employment. Feely, private investigator Chuck Klein and businessman James Cohen sought to have their right of self-defense restored with several pro-gun rights groups like Ohioans for Concealed Carry, Peoples Rights Organization and the Second Amendment Foundation.

This decision does NOT mean that criminals, juveniles and other prohibited persons can carry firearms since many other gun laws remain enforceable. This was made clear in the court’s ruling and if there are any questions about this fact, please call the numbers above or visit our website at http://www.saf.org/Ohio.htm

“This lawsuit is about restoring the right to bear arms to law-abiding adults under the Ohio Constitution, and does not benefit criminals in any way, shape or form,” said Gottlieb. “The hysterical gloom-and-doom rhetoric from the other side highlights that they have not studied the successes in the vast majority of states that allow concealed carry.”

Nationally, 42 states specifically allow the carrying of concealed weapons or firearms with a license or permit. Vermont makes 43 states by allowing the carrying of concealed firearms without any license/permit because of a court decision, State v. Rosenthal (1903). Of the remaining 7 states, Ohio is unique with its incomprehensible affirmative defense and on whom the burden of proof is placed.