Westerville City Council voted Tuesday, May 21, to approve a resolution in opposition to Ohio House Bill 178, which eliminates certain concealed-carry requirements for firearms and other weapons.

HB 178, which was introduced by state Reps. Ron Hood (R-Ashville) and Tom Brinkman (R-Cincinnati), has been dubbed a “constitutional carry” bill. Among other things, it removes the requirement for a license for concealed carry of firearms and allows for Ohioans ages 21 and older to conceal other weapons, such as knives, according to the bill summary at https://tinyurl.com/yysroa87.

The bill also would remove the notice requirement when licensees are stopped by law-enforcement officers.

City Manager David Collinsworth said Westerville considered the resolution to provide more local control over the issue.

In a 6-1 vote, council approved the resolution.

Acting police Chief Charles Chandler spoke before council and answered questions about the issue. He said the proposed bill would “strip away” concealed-carry information for law enforcement and that someone who is planning to go hunting would have to go through more education than someone who is simply buying a gun at a store.

“Someone who’s going to go hunt will still have to take an eight- to 12-hour (hunting) safety course,” he said.

Chandler said the bill retains the licensure availability so that Ohioans would continue to be able to travel to other states whose concealed-carry laws are reciprocal to Ohio’s.

“Education and training are really paramount to responsible gun ownership,” Chandler said. "I don't think it's an unreasonable requirement."

Council members shared several comments and questions on the issue.

Council member Valerie Cumming said residents had expressed concerns about creating a patchwork of laws. She asked if the resolution only opposes the House bill or if it would add to the city’s laws.

Collinsworth said the resolution opposes the bill.

Council member Alex Heckman spoke in favor of the resolution and gun restrictions at the state level.

“I also agree that I wish the state legislature would pass sensible, statewide gun regulations. But unfortunately, they seem unwilling to do that, so I think it’s important we take that action,” he said.

He said he’s familiar with some of the issues as a professor who covers government and other topics.

“With any right in the constitution, there’s always restrictions; there’s always limitations. There’s always ways and things people are not permitted to do because we then are moving in on infringing upon other peoples rights,” he said.

Council member Kathleen Cocuzzi said she supported the resolution and would prefer keeping the requirement of notice to police officers.

“Getting rid of that, to me, imperils the safety of police officers,” she said.

Council member Tim Davey, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said having a gun is a right, not a privilege.

“Any time that you insert bureaucracy into the right of the people, you’re infringing on that,” Davey said.

Prior to the resolution’s introduction, several residents addressed council, including Dean Rieck, a Westerville resident and executive director of pro-gun group Buckeye Firearms Association.

He said he didn’t like the proposed resolution because of the issue of home rule having been determined by the Ohio Supreme Court. He was referring to the court’s 5-2 ruling in 2010 that upholds as constitutional any state laws that displace local gun-control ordinances, as well as to a 2007 state law.

“I want to point out that there was a time when there was a patchwork of laws across the state,” he said. “It was a mess. You could literally be charged with status crimes just from moving from one city to another, going to the shooting range, going hunting or whatever.”

He said this was changed in March 2007, when one consistent law was approved at the state level.

“You’ve not had home rule on this for 12 years,” he said.

He said home rule has been well litigated, including by his own organization against the cities of Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. He said all those cases were ruled in favor of his organization.

“This resolution, while well intended, is going to be a complete waste of time,” Rieck said.

Westerville resident Micheal Batchelder said he favors of the resolution because he has found Westerville to be a welcoming and safe community. He said current gun restrictions make sense.

“To me, those are sensible regulations that contribute to the welcoming and safe communities like we have here in Westerville,” he said. “It does not prevent a citizen or someone in Ohio from obtaining a concealed-carry permit. It just asks that they undergo some basic precautions before they do so. This is no higher burden than obtaining a license to drive a vehicle.”

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