Ohio Representative Ron Maag (R-Lebanon) introduced House Bill 231 (HB 231) to reduce the number of what he calls “unarmed victim zones,” areas where law-abiding Ohioans with concealed handgun licenses are prevented from carrying firearms, on July 11.
Maag’s proposal, which has eight Republican cosponsors, seeks to align Ohio’s concealed carry restrictions more closely with federal law.
If HB 231 is approved by the legislature and signed by Governor John Kasich, areas including places of worship, schools and day-care centers, and some government buildings would no longer be automatically designated as “gun free” zones.
The bill would not prevent individual businesses or organizations from setting their own policies regarding concealed carry on their premises.
In an interview with Media Trackers, Rep. Maag explained that HB 231 is meant to avoid criminalizing Ohio citizens who choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
“Right now, we have a number of areas about where you’re not allowed to carry a gun. A legal, law-abiding citizen does one of two things: they either accidentally commit a felony, or they put themselves in a spot where their family could be killed or severely injured by a criminal,” Maag said.
“What [HB 231] will do is take away the criminal penalties for making a mistake.” Carrying a firearm in a designated “gun free” zone is currently a felony.
“A felony is a serious offense,” Maag continued. “It’ll cost you a lot of money, keeps you from ever getting a gun again, and you didn’t do anything but go into an area that was restricted. Again, they can be restricted — it’ll be a misdemeanor if you didn’t produce your license or have a good reason.”
“The story I like to use,” Maag added, “is let’s say your son or daughter misses the bus, and needs taken to school, and you’re a concealed-carry permit holder. You don’t get out of the car, you park in the parking lot, let him out, they run in, and you’re legal.”
“You get home, and find out that they didn’t take their lunch, so now you grab your wife or husband… do the same thing. Pull into the same parking spot, let her or him out to take in the lunch — you’ve committed a felony,” he explained. “It makes no sense!”
Addressing anticipated leftist criticisms of his bill, Maag explained that gun control advocates’ fears have continually failed to materialize.
“The argument when concealed-carry first came to Ohio that ‘there would be blood running down the street,'” Maag said, was the same argument used “when we allowed people to take a firearm with them into a restaurant, and have it there even though alcohol is being served there.”
“It hasn’t happened.”
Maag noted that “criminals break the law. Law-abiding citizens don’t, and we don’t want to make a law-abiding citizen into a criminal by having zones that make them a felon.”
Rep. Maag opined that his colleagues “shouldn’t have a whole lot of trouble with this. We’ll have some Democratic opposition, but I’m sure we’ll have some Democratic support. We’ll probably have some Republican opposition, but I did speak to the [Ohio State Highway] Patrol, I did speak with the governor’s office… I think that, for a starting point, it’s a pretty good bill.”
In a statement issued to Media Trackers, House Speaker William Batchelder said that he “looks forward to having a discussion with members of the caucus to gauge interest in House Bill 231.”
The bill has not been assigned to a committee, but its cosponsors include Assistant Majority Floor Leader John Adams (R-Sidney) and Assistant Majority Whip Jim Buchy (R-Greenville).