This week, Ohio became the latest state to allow the concealed carry of firearms without a license.
Ohio law currently requires applicants to demonstrate "competency" by completing a gun safety course before they can qualify for a license to carry a concealed weapon. Additionally, if a licensed carrier is stopped by law enforcement, they are required to "promptly inform" the officer that they are carrying a concealed weapon—failure to do so qualifies as a first-degree misdemeanor and can result in losing their license for up to a year.
Soon, those regulatory hurdles will no longer exist. This week, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill to simplify the concealed carry process. S.B. 215 will go into effect in June, and it says that any "qualifying adult shall not be required to obtain a concealed handgun license in order to carry in this state." Licenses will still be available, though, for any Ohioans who may wish to carry in states that honor Ohio licenses. And although carriers no longer have to volunteer to police officers that they are carrying, they do have to disclose if the officer asks.
While gun rights groups are pleased with its passage, many Democrats and law enforcement groups have denounced the legislation. "You will still be required to get a license if you want to drive a car, go fishing, or cut someone's hair," wrote Craig Calcaterra for Columbus Alive. "But you will not need one in order to put a semiautomatic pistol in your coat pocket when walking the dog, doing the grocery shopping or attending a football game."
Putting aside whether it is good policy to require licenses for doing hair, the bill is not quite as extreme as its opponents claim.
It only applies to adults aged 21 or older, who own their firearms legally; it does not restrict the state's ability to determine who may not own a weapon, based on factors like the person's criminal history or the type of weapon. Ohio law would still require a background check for purchasing a gun from a licensed dealer (though not for a private party transfer, like giving or selling it to a friend).
And while it may seem like a minor difference to change whether one has to disclose to an officer that they are carrying, or simply wait until the officer asks, remember the case of Philando Castile. Castile was killed in 2016 when a police officer responded to his calm disclosure that he was carrying a weapon, by opening fire. In that context, statutes that require citizens to disclose seem much more dicey, especially given that police often aren't trained in how to specifically interact with someone who is carrying.
Ultimately, the Ohio bill is a win for gun rights. Despite its opponents' characterizations, the clearest beneficiaries would be lawful gun-owners who are priced out of the current options. Training courses can run over $100 for the eight hours of classes currently required. But more importantly, the competency requirement is an unnecessary obstacle. Lawful gun owners should not be forced to jump through hoops just to exercise basic constitutional rights.