‘Guns Everywhere’ Bill to Allow Arms on Campuses


Benjamin Shepherd, Photo editor

An armed Oberlin resident shops at Wal-Mart. House Bill 48 would increase the amount of public places where licensed owners can carry concealed weapons.

Kerensa Loadholt, News Editor

The national debate over gun control has grown increasingly local since House Bill 48 passed through the Ohio House of Representatives last November. The city of Oberlin will demonstrate its opposition to the bill by presenting a resolution to City Council on Monday.

“The city of Oberlin believes that the laws expanding the possession of guns in areas within our community undermine public confidence in the assumption of safety and security in the community and impede law enforcement agencies and their ability to maintain safety and security,” the resolution states.

Many Oberlin community members and other Ohioans have voiced concerns about the bill, which would allow licensed owners to carry concealed weapons in daycare centers, school safety zones, certain government buildings and the non-secure areas of police stations and airports.

The bill is being sponsored by Representative Ron Maag and passed the House last November. It was assigned to the Senate’s State Government Oversight and Reform Committee, where it has only received one hearing to date.

“The bulk of Substitute House Bill 48 addresses forbidden carry zones, or as some would call them ‘victim zones,’ in Ohio — places where concealed carry is not permitted and citizens are vulnerable to crime,” Rep. Maag said in his sponsor testimony.

The bill would eliminate forbidden carry zones in daycare centers, private aircrafts and certain government buildings, but daycare centers would be treated like private businesses. They would be able to opt out by posting “No Gun” signs.

“[It] limits victim zones to secure areas in airports and police stations and clarifies the existing provision regarding schools. [It also] allows college campuses to permit concealed carry if they so choose,” Maag said.

“House Bill 48 applies only to individuals who have undergone firearm safety training and have obtained the appropriate concealed carry permit under Ohio law,” Senator Gayle Manning wrote in an email to the Review. “Personally, I have taken a concealed carry course in order to be a more responsible gun owner, although I would not be affected by this legislation because I have not obtained the state permit. Like me, the vast majority of Ohio gun owners choose not to carry their firearms.”

Approximately 7 percent of Ohio’s adult population has applied for a Concealed Carry of Weapons permit, Ohioans for Safe Communities said in an email to the Review. There hasn’t been any evidence that the places House Bill 48 would affect have expressed interest in allowing CCW into their spaces.

“HB 48 invents a non-existent problem,” OSC said. “Despite claims that gun-free zones are somehow ‘victim zones,’ there is no evidence that the places identified in the bill are particularly dangerous (or more dangerous) compared to places where Concealed Carry of Weapons (CCW) is permitted,” OSC said in an email to the Review.

The group said they believed that the previous CCW legislation, passed in 2004, recognized that certain establishments were inappropriate for CCW. “Victim zones,” as gun advocates often call gun-free zones, are less likely to be targeted by criminals, and CCW laws have been shown to increase violent crime and numbers of shootings, OSC said.

Rev. Dr. John Elder, OC ’53, Honorary Trustee of Oberlin College, has been actively fighting the bill. In his testimony against House Bill 48, Elder discussed the “No Guns” signs on the doors of First Church and the Kendal Early Learning Center, saying that while signs like these would serve to protect establishments, there is no guarantee that citizens would abide by them.

He also expressed worry about backlash from gun-advocacy groups for spaces to openly accept concealed carry weapons.

“Under present law a person carrying a gun illegally into restricted places is subject to arrest on the charge of misdemeanor of the first degree and, if there are aggravating circumstances, of felony,” Elder said in his testimony. “The proposed legislation would not only drastically reduce the number of prohibited places but also reduce any violation to a minor misdemeanor.”

Some gun carriers have argued that current laws overly restrict their right to bear arms.

“If a gun carrier is not able to understand and abide by the present restrictions, does it really make sense to remove the restrictions? Doesn’t that increase the risk of carelessness turning into a tragedy?” Elder said.

Elder holds that the bill is unsound in its reasoning and will not benefit citizens of Ohio. In a letter addressed to Sen. Manning, Elder said that in the long run, it will only serve to further endanger people because of an increase in legal firearms on the street. The bill also has no way of regulating the usage of firearms under the influence of drugs, alcohol or any temporary distress that could cause an overreaction, Elder said.

In December 2014, House Bill 234 was signed into law, cutting the training hours required for a CCW permit from 12 to 8. Amid further attempts to reduce training hours, OSC has been working with other gun violence prevention groups in an attempt to prove the potential dangers of House Bill 48.

“HB 48 seeks to clean up issues with the original concealed carry legislation by facilitating lawful gun ownership and making it possible for a licensed concealed carry permit holder to carry without undue hardship, preventing law-abiding citizens from unintended violations,” Sen. Manning said.

Linda Slocum, Oberlin’s City Council Vice President, cited the city of Oberlin’s Bill of Rights when she expressed her disagreement with the bill.

“It affirms local control in protection of our health, safety and welfare. Although this ordinance was passed specifically with fracking and the natural gas industry in mind, the principles of home rule as set forth in the Ohio Constitution certainly resound with Oberlin residents in regard to gun issues,” said Slocum.

On Feb. 19, Sen. Manning held a meeting at the Oberlin Public Library. John Elder, Linda Slocum and representatives from Ohioans for Safe Communities were among those in attendance. During the meeting, Sen. Manning said that she had been informed in a conceal carry weapons class that no crimes in Ohio had been committed by a CCW license holder.

Elder and Slocum pointed out that the sheriff who instructed the class was misinformed, citing statistics from the Violence Policy Center’s website. According to OCS, over the past couple of years, 22 fatal incidents that occurred in Ohio and were committed by CCW license holders were not in self-defense but the result of an accident, suicide or a homicide.

Elder, along with his wife Anne Elder, OC ’53, have been gathering signatures on petitions to amend the Ohio Constitution to allow municipalities to adopt their own gun regulations.

“Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 3 of this Article, the powers of local self-government and the police powers of every municipality shall include the power to adopt and enforce within their limits local regulations restricting the possession, sale, transfer, transport, use or storage of any firearm, so long as such local regulations are consistent with the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the proposed amendment states. “No general law adopted by the General Assembly shall supersede, preempt or override such municipal firearms regulations.”