Ohio House Passes Bill Protecting Firearms Rights During Declared Emergencies

Republicans in the Ohio House passed a bill Thursday, on a 55 to 22 vote, that will prevent state and local governments from closing gun stores, stopping processing background checks, or confiscating firearms without cause during declared states of emergency.

Senate Bill (SB) 185, sponsored by State Senator Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), aims to prevent state and local governments and elected or appointed officials from infringing on Second Amendments rights during declared emergencies. This would include required gun registrations, seizing weapons, banning the sale of ammunition, limiting the operating hours at shooting ranges, or prohibiting otherwise lawful hunting.

“Senate Bill 185 will protect the rights of Ohioans to their firearms recognizing their natural right to protect themselves, recreate and feed their families under any declaration of emergency,” Schaffer said.

The concept for the legislation came from the COVID-19 pandemic. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine carved out an exemption for gun stores in his stay-at-home orders, but other states did not.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, it became evident that local, state, and federal governments have sweeping restrictive powers during a declared emergency. Senate Bill 185 does not expand gun rights, but provides an additional layer of protection during an emergency,” Schaffer said.

Proponents of the bill, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), state that this bill is essential to protect gun owners and their loved ones.

“This past year has reminded gun owners that the Second Amendment is their best means of keeping themselves and their loved ones safe. They have also been reminded that there are very powerful individuals and bodies that would like to abolish that right and now, more than ever, they must fight to protect it,” NRA Institute for Legislative Action Director John Weber said.

Democrats and organizations in opposition to the bill say the legislation favors gun stores over other retailers in a potentially unconstitutional way. They also note it might violate Ohio’s home rule provision of the state constitution by not permitting cities to determine how to best handle emergency situations.

“The bill imposes a substantial preemption against municipal Home Rule authority by prohibiting a city or village from taking actions they deem in the best interest of public safety during situations that pose heightened security concerns for property and life. As currently written, SB 185 would continue the steady erosion of local control for communities across the state,” executive director of the Ohio Municipal League Kent Scarrett said.

The NRA states, however, that politicians should never have the power to take away an individual’s Second Amendment rights.

“Politicians should not ever have the right to take away an individual’s best means for self-defense, especially during difficult times. After more than a year of constantly evolving mandates and restrictions, often implemented without the consultation of the legislature, the time for this bill is now,” Weber said.

SB 185 passed the Ohio Senate on a party-line vote in October 2021. Due to amendments, the bill now heads to the Senate for a concurrence vote. If it passes, it will head to the governor for his signature.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Tim Schaffer” by Tim Schaffer. Background Photo “Gun” by Karolina Grabowska.

 

 

 

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