Thursday, September 25, 2003

Ohio Supreme Court: Concealed carry

Bad decision, bad law

Wednesday's ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court on carrying concealed weapons upholds a bad law that should be rewritten by the General Assembly.

This is a law that dates back to 1859 and was already upheld by the court in 1920.

Wednesday's 5-2 decision says that the right to own a gun doesn't automatically give you the right to carry that gun in your pocket. "The General Assembly has determined that prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons helps maintain an orderly and safe society," said Justice Paul Pfeifer in the majority opinion. "There is no constitutional right to bear concealed weapons," [emphasis added].

Leaving aside the twists in that interpretation, our major complaint with Ohio's existing law is the way it says that some people can carry concealed weapons under certain conditions. But the only way to find out if you meet those conditions is to get arrested, go to court and prove it. That is contrary to the basic Constitutional assumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

The Supreme Court's decision overruled the rulings of the lower courts in a case filed in Cincinnati by a group of citizens whose lawyer argued just that point. The Supreme Court is correct that the legislature does have the right to regulate the possession of firearms over such issues as age, training, mental competence and criminal history, but it should not make such regulation so restrictive that it effectively bans everybody from carrying a gun. That is what the current law does.

This whole issue would be moot if the General Assembly could work out a reasonable bill with reasonable regulations. The arguments generally have pitted rural and suburban legislators against those from urban areas with higher crime rates.

The Senate and House passed different versions of a bill this year, with the House rejecting the Senate version as too restrictive. Gov. Bob Taft supported the Senate version, chiefly because the Ohio Highway Patrol did not oppose it. Taft has said he will not sign a bill that is not supported by the patrol. Neither side has been willing to budge since June.

We hope Wednesday's ruling, upholding a bad law, will crack the legislative obstinacy.

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Ohio Supreme Court: Concealed carry
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