Licking County News

House Bill 454 would clarify law on guns in school zone


A proposed law crafted after a man with a gun inadvertently caused a lockdown at the New Albany-Plain Local Schools campus passed a House committee May 28.

House Bill 454 seeks to clarify the law in regards to carrying a gun in school safety zones, in hopes of avoiding another incident like one that occurred Jan. 13 in New Albany.

The bill "will resolve the ambiguities existing under the present law not only for the licensee, but also law enforcement, school administrators and the general public," Mitch Banchefsky, the New Albany city law director, recently told legislators.

In January, Banchefsky said, a man with a concealed-carry license was picking up his daughter from school when he got out of the vehicle to retrieve an umbrella from the back seat. Doing so exposed the gun he was carrying, and when another parent saw it, the police were called and the schools were placed on lockdown.

Kerri Mollard, a New Albany parent, told legislators that her young children got off the bus late that afternoon and were terrified.

"My kids leapt into my arms crying that they thought they were going to die, that a man with a gun was on campus, and that they were in lockdown on the bus," she said.

She added: "My husband has not yet gone through the fingerprinting and background checks (required for district volunteers), so he can't read a book to my daughter's class. But another father can walk on school grounds with a gun in a holster?"

Current law says that a concealed-carry licensee who is engaged in dropping off or picking up a student can carry a gun. But there is confusion, Banchefsky said, when the person exits the vehicle while in a school safety zone. The man was not charged.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Anne Gonzales (R-Westerville) specifies that if a person picking up or dropping off any person, document or item exits a vehicle while in a school safety zone, the gun must remain inside the locked vehicle.

Gonzales said the intent of the current law is that the gun never leaves the vehicle. The bill makes that more clear, she said.

Toby Hoover, founder of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, opposed the bill because it expands the circumstances when a gun can be present in a school zone.

Jim Irvine of the Buckeye Firearms Association said the bill simply makes the law easier to understand.