Opinion: Passage of gun bills misses the mark when it comes to Ohio's priorities

The Ohio House voted last Wednesday in favor of bills that would allow teachers with 20 hours of training to carry firearms on K-12 campuses and that would wipe out a required eight-hour class for Ohioans to carry hidden guns into public places.
The Ohio House voted last Wednesday in favor of bills that would allow teachers with 20 hours of training to carry firearms on K-12 campuses and that would wipe out a required eight-hour class for Ohioans to carry hidden guns into public places.

Guns are again atop of the General Assembly’s agenda, as demonstrated by two measures passed while many Ohioans were distracted by the legislature’s congressional gerrymandering antics.

More: Concealed carry, guns in schools: Two major gun bills win approval in Ohio House

Thomas Suddes
Thomas Suddes

One bill, which the House passed 60-32 on Nov. 17, would make it legal for an Ohioan to carry a concealed handgun without obtaining a state-issued license.

Prime sponsors of that proposal, House Bill 227, are Republican Reps. Thomas Brinkman of Cincinnati and Kris Jordan, of Delaware County’s Ostrander. All House Republicans present for the rollcall voted yes, while all House Democrats present voted no.

The other measure, House Bill 99, which passed Ohio’s House 59-33 the same day, reduces the amount of training a school employee must have in order to be legally armed in a school, on a school bus or at a school activity. The sponsor of the armed-teacher bill is Rep. Thomas Hall, a Middletown Republican.

All Republicans present (except Rep. Gayle Manning, of North Ridgeville) voted yes, while all Democrats present plus the GOP’s Manning voted no.

Columbus-area Ohio House members who voted “yes” on both bills included Republican Reps. Rick Carfagna, of Genoa Township; Jordan, of Ostrander; Laura Lanese, of Grove City, Jeff LaRe, of Canal Winchester; and Kevin Miller, of Newark.

Both bills now move to the state Senate for committee hearings. The Senate, run 25-8 by the GOP, is more likely than not to pass both bills, which would send them to Gov. Mike DeWine for his signature, or in theory, a potential veto.

Whatever else the two bills will do, they will gladden Ohio’s gun merchants and the national handgun lobby, which has never seen a problem that guns can’t solve.

Neither bill should come as a surprise. It’s true of course, that when parents send their children to school, the school district owes those families safety. Trouble is (at least to those who want teachers armed) is that the better solution to assure safety – assigning police to schools and installing metal detectors – costs more than many school boards say they can afford to pay.

Common sense suggests the state government could supply the necessary funds from the gazillions of dollars in non-Medicaid federal aid it gets, or by spending some of the $2.75 billion “unencumbered fund balance” (bureaucrat-speak for “surplus”) Ohio expects to have in its general revenue fund on June 30, end of the current fiscal year.

The steady expansion – and now, possibly, the virtual repeal – of Ohio’s concealed handgun law was foreseen from the day that Republican then-Gov. Bob Taft signed it on Jan. 8, 2004. (Among those voting “yes” on the concealed handgun bill was then-Rep. Jon Husted, a suburban Dayton Republican, who is now Ohio’s lieutenant governor.)

Passage of the 2003-2004 concealed carry law was considered a major achievement of then-House Speaker Larry Householder, a Republican from Perry County’s Glenford, who in mid-2020 was indicted on federal corruption charges unrelated to the concealed-carry law. Householder is presumed innocent of the federal charges unless convicted.

Since Taft signed the 2003-2004 law, here’s the history: A steady rollback of Ohio gun laws, all to please a relentless lobby till – it sometimes seems – Ohioans will be required to arm themselves as soon as they can walk.

In 2019, latest year available, Ohio ranked fifth among the states in the number of firearms deaths; meanwhile, Ohio ranks seventh in population, lags the nation in median household income (Ohio’s is $56,602, the nation’s is $62,343) and has more poverty, percentagewise, than the nationwide rate. Ohio’s rate is 13.1%, the nation’s is 11.4%.

Comforting, isn’t it, that the General Assembly has the right priorities?

A moment of thanks-giving

Despite the General Assembly’s antics (ably seconded by some of Ohio’s statewide elected officials), some low-profile public servants on Capitol Square deserve taxpayers’ thanks amid these days of gratitude.

At the top of Job’s List for World-Class Patience are the women and men of the Ohio Senate and Ohio House clerks’ offices and of the Legislative Service Commission. Without their dedication, the General Assembly simply could not function. Thank you one and all.

Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. tsuddes@gmail.com

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Opinion: Ohio's priorities shouldn't focus on passing gun bills