Bill would relax gun-free zone laws

A proposed state law would relax punishments on concealed carry permit holders if they take a gun into a gun free zone. (WSYX/WTTE)

Some state lawmakers have backed a bill to give people who carry a concealed weapon a break. The bill would relax the laws on gun-free zones. The bill introduced Thursday would "decriminalize" concealed carry holders from facing serious charges if they accidentally brought a gun into a gun-free zone.

Supporters said the rules on where people with a Concealed Handgun License (CHL) are allowed to carry keep changing. CHL holders can now carry in airports before reaching security and in some daycare facilities and some college campuses.

"It can get confusing trying to remember all the places," said Claire Marvin who runs AimHi, a gun range and CHL instruction center in New Albany. "Can I or can't I (carry)? You don't see the sign and you go in and you go, 'oh, I messed up. I'm going to turn around and take my gun out it the car' and that's fine."

Marvin said CHL holders are typically the most responsible gun owners around. They must go through training courses. Still, he said mistakes happen.

"If you carry a gun it does become second nature, but you have a responsibility as a concealed carry handgun holder to be aware of your firearm, where it is, if you're going to touch it, use it all the time," he said.

The bill also includes a "jerk clause." A concealed carry holder could still face charges if they're asked to leave a gun-free zone but refuse.

Critics said CHL holders should play by the rules like everyone else.

"It should not be on the rest of us to let them slide without a penalty for breaking the law," said Jennifer Thorne with the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.

Thorne said part of the responsibility of having a concealed weapon is knowing where it's allowed.

"We actually don't have that many gun-free zones left in Ohio," she said. "If a place is still a gun-free zone, it's because the people in charge of it want it to be and we should all respect that."

The bill already has the support of more than half the representatives in the Ohio House. It was just introduced and hasn't been assigned to a committee so a vote is unlikely to happen soon.

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