Ohio bill would ban gun store closures during states of emergency

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Thousands of Ohio businesses were forced to close during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, but gun stores were not one of them.

Gov. Mike DeWine has exemptions in his stay-at-home orders for gun stores and other “essential businesses” like gas stations, grocery stores and hospitals.

Republican lawmakers say DeWine got this part of the shutdown right, and they want to make sure another governor couldn’t decide otherwise.

This is why Senator Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, introduced Senate Bill 185. The bill, which was passed in committee Tuesday afternoon, would prohibit local governments in Ohio from closing gun stores during a declared state of emergency. And it would prohibit the police from confiscating weapons, invalidating concealed carrying permits or closing shooting ranges.

“It just clarifies that people cannot have their rights taken away during a time of declared emergency,” Schaffer said.

Are arms stores essential?

Governors across the country had to answer the same question when they ordered businesses shutdown: What industries are critical?

Unsurprisingly, they came up with different answers.

Michigan, New York, New Mexico, Massachusetts and Washington have all ordered arms dealers to go out of business as part of their statewide stay-at-home orders.

California Governor Gavin Newsom left it up to local sheriffs to decide while Illinois granted the same exemption as Ohio.

And about half of the states in the United States already had a law in place similar to the one Schaffer is proposing.

“Most of these protections were put in place as a result of Hurricane Katrina and the government response that followed,” said Chris Lee, who represents the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Law enforcement in Louisiana confiscated 552 guns in the weeks following the historic 2005 floods. Local police have always said they only took guns that were stolen or found in abandoned homes, but the The practice of removing these weapons has sparked a national backlash within the gun rights community.

“Ohio has a very gun-friendly legislature,” Buckeye Firearm Association lobbyist Rob Sexton told lawmakers in June.

But he still thinks the SB 185 is needed.

“Red states turn blue. Blue states turn red. Times are changing. Politics are changing …” Sexton said. “It would be stupid to wait.

Riot prevention

Democratic Senator Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, wants to wait – at least until he hears more from law enforcement.

Thomas, a former police officer, said he was concerned this bill would remove a tool law enforcement needs to defuse dangerous situations such as protests that get out of hand.

Current law allows local governments to prohibit the sale or transport of “firearms or other dangerous weapons” such as crossbows and knives when suppressing a riot or “when there is danger. clear and present of a riot “.

SB 185 would eliminate this provision for everything except dynamite and other explosives.

The next step on the road to becoming law in Ohio is a floor vote by the Ohio Senate. Then the bill will go back to the House for consideration.

Anna Staver is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal, and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.


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