Constitutional carry law awaits DeWine

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has released his office’s annual concealed handgun report which showed 202,920 concealed carry licenses were issued in Ohio in 2021.

The report is full of statistics, broken down by county, on the number of Ohio residents who have obtained permits to carry a concealed weapon after completing the required eight hours of training and passing a background check.

The stats, which have been compiled by the attorney general’s office since 2004, could become academic in the near future as a bill to allow Ohioans to carry a concealed handgun without a permit passed the Ohio legislature and is on a fast track to becoming law.

The Ohio House Government Oversight Committee on Tuesday passed Sub Senate Bill 215, which allows Ohioans to concealed carry without a permit and removes required training and background checks for gun owners. The so-called “constitutional carry bill” passed on the House floor, 57-35, on Wednesday and an hour later passed in the Ohio Senate, 24-8. Now it awaits the governor’s signature.

The legislation would allow anyone 21 or older to carry a concealed firearm unless state or federal law prohibits them from possessing a gun.

Sheriff’s association supports bill

Hardin County Sheriff Keith Everhart, the immediate past president of the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, supports the legislation.

“The sheriffs’ association has been at the table ever since Day One of this bill, and we as an association — after a lot of discussion — have supported it,” Everhart said Wednesday.

The sheriff said the bill, if signed into law, will likely lead to a 40 to 60% drop in the number of concealed carry permits issued by county sheriffs.

“Would I love to see everyone go through a background check (to conceal carry a handgun)? Yeah, I probably would,” Everhart said. “But as a general rule, law enforcement is pro-Second Amendment, and I’m not going to go against that.”

Everhart stressed that the sheriff’s association fought for, and gained, inclusion in the bill of language that requires anyone stopped by law enforcement to immediately declare they are carrying a weapon if asked. He also stressed that the constitutional carry bill is valid only in Ohio and does not protect gun owners who travel to other states from legal liability there.

Steve Farmer is the lead instructor in the state of Ohio for the Arizona-based Insight Firearms Training Development company, which offers firearm safety training classes for all skill levels. He is confident a majority of gun enthusiasts will still opt to take classes even if the constitutional carry law does not require it.

“We absolutely support the Second Amendment and citizens’ right to bear arms,” Farmer said, “and I think responsible gun owners will continue to take the training from us. There will be people who take advantage of the situation, and that’s always a concern, but even now in Ohio there is no requirement for continuing education” after completing the initial mandated eight-hour course.

2021 AG statistics

According to statistics submitted to the attorney general’s office for inclusion in this year’s report, county sheriffs issued 94,298 new licenses and 108,622 renewals in 2021.

The issuance of new licenses was down slightly statewide from the previous year, although renewals were up by 50%. Permit holders who wish to renew their licenses must do so every five years.

In Wood County, 867 new licenses were issued and 1,766 were renewed. There were 37 licenses suspended and three revoked. There were 33 license denied.

County sheriffs statewide last year denied licenses to 2,668 applicants who failed to meet state-mandated requirements and revoked 420 licenses for causes including felony convictions and mental incompetence, as required by law.