Debate Forum: 04/14

Forum Center: Ohio’s latest smoking gun

By Sarah Sidlow

Illustration: Jed Helmers

No permit, no training requirement and no searches for gun owners? It may just happen – that is, if House Bill 147, introduced to the Ohio statehouse by Republican representative Ron Hood of Ashville, passes.

If HB 147 is successful, Ohio would join Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Vermont and Wyoming in enacting a “constitutional carry” law. Ten other states are currently considering similar legislation.

Ohio’s current conceal carry law requires an applicant to have eight hours of firearm training and obtain a permit from a county sheriff in order to carry a firearm. That eight hour training requirement is a recent reduction from the 12 hours of training that was required just months ago – the first recent move by conservative Ohio lawmakers to relax state gun laws. That recent legislation also added reciprocity agreements with five additional states – bringing the total to 28 states where a valid Ohio permit holder can carry a concealed weapon.

And it may be just the first of many steps to loosen state gun regulations. Under HB 147, anyone aged 21 or older would be able to carry any legal firearm without obtaining a permit or completing mandatory training. Moreover, the bill would prohibit law enforcement from searching and detaining citizens based only on the possession of a firearm.

Proponents of HB 147 see this as the ability to fully exercise the Second Amendment – something American citizens should already have the ability to do, they argue. As citizens, we do not need permits to purchase a Bible or a printing press – and proponents of constitutional carry argue what’s good for the First Amendment should be good for the second.

As for those concerned with a lack of gun training, proponents argue neighboring states like Indiana and Pennsylvania already issue licenses with no training requirement, and have experienced little to no related incidents. Moreover, they claim, responsible gun owners would volunteer to receive the training anyway.

But opponents are more worried about the irresponsible gun owners.

They claim removing the permitting and training requirements for concealed weapons will put public safety at risk, and argue that gun regulations should become more stringent, not less. Simply, gun violence is something you can’t take back:

“We have to remember that everyone carrying a gun is a ‘good guy’ right up until the time they aren’t,” says Jennifer Thorne, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.

Reach DCP Editor Sarah Sidlow at Editor@DaytonCityPaper.com

Debate Forum Question of the Week:

Should Ohio consider a “constitutional carry” law that would allow concealed carry without a permit?

Debate Left: A Bullet in the hand is worth two in the head

Response by Ben Tomkins

It’s taken me a considerable amount of time to decide how to go about addressing this. When Sarah first ran this topic by me, I actually thought it was a joke. The Ohio Congress is actually considering a bill that would allow anyone 21 and over, with no training or having gone through a permit process, to walk down the street with a gun in their hand. Moreover, it would be illegal for the police to even ask to see if a potential fully automatic weapon had been altered to make it semiautomatic. 

Essentially, it creates the Wild West. Imagine your town filled with a bunch of kids who just passed the legal drinking age, carrying rifles they just bought at Wal-mart earlier that day because “guns are cool,” sauntering all over town with the thing slung over their shoulders. 

This is not an OK state of affairs. It’s very easy to talk about the Second Amendment when, proportionally, there aren’t that many people sitting on the bus with a .45 pressing up against your kid’s Dora the Explorer backpack. However, it is extraordinarily important to realize that if a day comes where you can’t even take your child to the park without being surrounded by armed strangers, you’re the one who needs to suck it up and deal. That’s the society you asked for. 

That’s not reductionist either. Compare that to the free speech argument. The Constitution doesn’t say anything whatsoever about obscenity, and yet we don’t let hardcore porn be shown on television. I don’t know anyone who would want to live in a country where the Super Bowl halftime show you’re watching with your daughter could easily be “Two Girls One Cup.” Be honest now: do you believe in free speech that much? If you do, then be willing to accept Benny’s First Law of Human Rights:

Any extremity of rights that is allowed can and will occur. Coined.

Besides, by what right does the Ohio legislature make the legal age 21? The Second Amendment says, and I very meticulously quote:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

When you’re 18, you’re an adult. By making it 21, you are violating the civil rights of each and every citizen for three years according to those words. I can go further, and say that any curtailing is a violation of the Second Amendment. How about a mentally ill or disabled person whose condition hasn’t proven to be a danger to society? Prior restraint is by definition unconstitutional. 

Is it not also infringing upon my rights as a citizen to bar me from carrying a gun into a school? As a matter of fact, HB 147 implies that, because the presence of a weapon is not probable cause for a government entity to detain me, there’s no reason why that shouldn’t include public teachers.

In essence, the argument is: who are you, or anyone else, to decide ahead of time that the language in the Constitution allows for any kind of interpretation regardless of the circumstances? From where do you derive that right, and on what grounds do you claim it? 

Well, I actually do claim that right. I claim it on the grounds that it is my right first and foremost as a citizen of the United States to participate in the parliamentary processes of civil discourse guaranteed by the Constitution, without having to stare at a gun on the belt of those with whom I disagree. That’s about as fundamental as it gets. The framework of our social contract is predicated upon the freedom to stand on the Agora and speak without fear or threat of bodily harm, and a process of judicial review for redress of grievances. 

The whole point of the Declaration of Independence was that, after decades of failed discourse and appeals for the right of an American to have a say in government, the time had come for them to assert humanity’s unalienable and eternal right to cast that government off. 

That’s why our Constitution has built within it a parliamentary procedure for dissolution rather than a violent one. To be sure, it’s not an easy road, but nothing that concerns all Americans that profoundly ought to be. Weapons should only get involved when the process is carried through and then the will of the people is negated by those in charge. That’s the moment when our founding fathers intended the guns to come out of the closet, not before. 

It is antithetical to the idea of an enlightened revolution, free society, and indeed the very fabric of our social philosophy, to assume that every other citizen is only participating under threat of imminent force. It degrades the concept of We the People, it aborts the idealism of our founding fathers that freedom of speech and thought can be shared cultural values, and it obliterates the efforts of an all-too-small and all-too-recent slice of history’s homo sapiens, on a small portion of our tiny planet, to prove to ourselves that we are capable of transcending our animal nature and living under the governance of our minds and consciences rather than our brutish musculature.

And that…is a conversation worth having.

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at BenTomkins@DaytonCityPaper.com.

Debate Right: Exercising the inherent right of self-defense

Response by By Mike Snead

Being that the “constitutional carry” law is very controversial, the appropriate starting point to argue in favor of this change is with our federal and state supreme laws – the U.S. Constitution and the Ohio Constitution. Any other starting point, such as emotion or political ideology, will likely lead to incorrect assumptions and a conclusion inconsistent with our supreme law. Not being a lawyer, this is my understanding of what this change in law attempts to achieve and why it is appropriate.

Many of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution were specifically adopted to define rights of the states and/or the people that the federal government could not infringe by law or act. This was done specifically to limit the powers of the federal government in order to preserve and protect states’ rights and personal liberty.

The 1791 Second Amendment – “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” – encompasses two interrelated rights. The first was a clear statement that the federal government could not restrict the right to own and bear arms for defense and security. In the late 1700s, the individual’s right to own and bear arms was implicit from British common law. The second was a “free State’s” right to raise a militia from among its armed citizens.

Remember, at that time the concept of a federal government was new and untried. The very idea of a constitution being the supreme law of the land was also new and untried. 

Federal limitations or bans on the personal ownership or use of firearms would prevent a state from raising a militia to oppose a federal abuse of power. Having just won their liberty from the tyranny of Great Britain, the states wanted to ensure their ability to do so should the need arise.

In Ohio, the right to own arms comes from the current (1851) Ohio Constitution: “The people have the right to bear arms for their defense and security; …” Written nearly six decades after the Second Amendment, Ohioans acknowledged the people’s common-law right to own firearms and to have these firearms readily available for defense and security – “to bear arms.” Further, having been written well after frontier wars in Ohio were a thing of the past, the intent appears clear to be a right to bear arms for the defense of one’s person, home and property.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court noted the words of the Second Amendment “guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” They referred to this as the “inherent right to self-defense.” If life is a God-given right, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, self-defense to protect one’s life must also be an inherent right whether in the home or elsewhere. Thus, it is an inherent right, as a general principle, to be able to be armed for self-defense. Arguing otherwise goes against this inherent right of self-defense. Why should this right stop at the front door?

Consistent with the Ohio Constitution, Ohio is an “open carry” state. Most adults can strap a legal firearm to their belt in plain view and carry in most public places in the state. (There are, of course, location restrictions comparable to the restriction of not lawfully being able to yell “fire” in a theater.) Such open carry is quite rare, however, despite widespread firearm ownership. (Carry while in a vehicle has its own set of legal restrictions not addressed here.)

Concealed firearm carry was outlawed in Ohio in 1859. Many other cities, territories, and states had adopted such laws going back to the early 1800s. As with many such controversial changes, in some states the concealment ban was declared constitutional while in other states it was found to be unconstitutional. With the right to keep and bear arms protected by the U.S. Constitution, affirmed in recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, how these arms are carried outside the home appears to be a state issue. 

In 2004, Ohio adopted licensed concealed carry, as have many other states. With open carry by private citizens not being common in Ohio for more than a century, these citizens were afforded a means to provide for their self-defense outside of their home with concealed legal firearms if they wished. Uncertain about the danger to the public this would create, training in firearm use and safety, in addition to the federal background check, was imposed as a condition for obtaining a concealed carry permit. 

Now, with more than a decade of positive experience, states are dropping the training and licensing requirement for any adult that was already legally able to obtain a concealed carry permit. The provision of the Ohio Constitution – our state’s supreme law – affirming the inherent right of adults to bear arms for their defense and security would, thus, be more faithfully implemented with this “constitutional carry” revision to Ohio law. To continue to do otherwise, where a clear public necessity is not readily apparent, would now appear to be unconstitutional.

Should adults obtain training in the safe use and ownership of firearms? Certainly! Perhaps, if public safety is a valid public policy concern, Ohio should include gun ownership and safety as a senior high school graduation requirement to prepare these soon-to-be adults to safely and lawfully exercise their Ohio constitutional rights should they choose.

Mike Snead is a professional aerospace engineer focused on advanced human spaceflight and energy systems. He is also the current president of the Dayton TEA Party. You can reach him at MikeSnead@DaytonCityPaper.com

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Sarah Sidlow
Reach DCP editor Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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