Thursday, July 15, 2004

Concealed-weapon law passes key test

Court dismisses suit against sheriffs

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - The state's 3-month-old concealed weapons law passed its first test on Wednesday when a unanimous Ohio Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit that claimed county sheriffs do not have the resources to conduct thorough background checks of permit applicants.

The court, without comment, dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, which promised to keep fighting the law.

The Legislature passed the law after nine years of debate, and Gov. Bob Taft signed it on Jan. 7. It went into effect April 8, and the coalition sued the sheriffs the next day.

The law, which bars people who have been institutionalized against their will from obtaining permits, does not provide adequate resources for checking the records of applicants who have a history of mental illness, the coalition said.

The law also does not provide enough money for sheriffs to process the applications, the group said. The $45 fee applicants pay for the permits is split among law enforcement groups that conduct the checks and process the permits.

Under the law, most Ohioans can carry hidden guns but not in government buildings, day-care centers, bars or on property where the owner prohibits them. Gun owners also must pass a background check and complete 12 hours of safety training.

The lawsuit also contended the court already had ruled that the ban on concealed weapons was constitutional and that the new law interferes with Ohioans' right to safety.

Toby Hoover, the coalition's executive director, said she had hoped the Supreme Court would consider the lawsuit, but the coalition would likely refile it in a common pleas court.

"Eventually, it would end back up with the Supreme Court anyway, which is why we wanted to take the fastest vehicle," Hoover said.

Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican and a member of the House Criminal Justice Committee, said he was pleased with the court's dismissal.

"I am satisfied that Ohio took the constitutional and lawful first steps toward joining 44 other states" that have some type of concealed weapons law.

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