Criminal Justice Update
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Criminal Justice Update

No Permit Needed

A new state law went into effect June 13 that allows qualified adults to carry a loaded, concealed handgun without obtaining a license, taking a firearms course or undergoing a background check.
Likewise, individuals who carry a concealed handgun no longer are required to immediately reveal that they are armed if stopped by a law enforcement officer. If asked by an officer, however, they are legally required to answer truthfully.
Law enforcement agencies will be watching to see what long-term impact, if any, the law has on the public, community safety and gun violence in general. In the meantime, though, they’re adapting as necessary.
With its new law, Ohio followed a trend among states toward “permitless carry,” commonly referred to as constitutional carry.
Just 10 days after the law took effect, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 23 struck down a New York law making it illegal to carry a concealed gun for protection outside the home without showing a special need for protection — a ruling that affirmed Americans’ right to bear arms in public and allowed states to continue to prohibit guns in certain locations, including schools and government buildings.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost last year joined numerous other states in an amicus brief challenging the New York law. 
Yost said the safety of Ohio’s law enforcement officers will always be of paramount importance, a goal that can be achieved by ensuring that they receive the most advanced training and are thoroughly educated about new laws or changes in law. 
The new concealed-carry law, as the attorney general points out in an online video available to law enforcement, is much the same as the one it replaces. Rules about where a concealed gun is and isn’t allowed are virtually unchanged, he said, and the same is true of rules governing the transport of loaded handguns in vehicles. 
In short, although the new law makes the license optional, it does not eliminate the rules that govern carrying a concealed handgun or the responsibility of a handgun owner to know those rules. That’s why AG Yost encourages firearm education — and not just a knowledge of safe gun-handling and the limits of the concealed-carry law but also an understanding of laws on self-defense and deadly force, given that most people who conceal-carry say they do it for personal safety.
Educating the public is essential, said Capt. Mitch Houser, head of the community services division for the Euclid Police Department. People who haven’t studied the new law might unintentionally break it, he said — for example, by carrying a handgun into a restricted location or keeping it where someone prohibited from having a gun could easily get to it.
During the three months after the law was passed by the General Assembly, Capt. Houser noted, officers encountered several people who were carrying concealed guns without a license who didn’t realize that the law had yet to take effect. To help spread the word about the new rules, the Euclid PD is primarily using social media, a tactic also being employed by other law enforcement agencies through the state as well as the Attorney General’s Office.
When Ohio legalized concealed-carry in 2004, it established a licensing system through the offices of the state’s 88 county sheriffs, a system that remains in place under the new law.
To get a license for carrying a concealed weapon (CCW), applicants must be 21 or older, pass a federal background check, take a total of eight hours of classroom and live-fire training from a certified instructor, pass a written exam and pay a $67 fee.
As with anyone seeking to own a gun in Ohio, applicants are disqualified if they are judged to be mentally incompetent, subject to protection orders or addicted to drugs or alcohol, or have been convicted of a felony drug offense or a violent felony offense.
Although Ohio no longer requires CCW licenses, the state will continue to issue and renew them under the same terms as before. That’s because a physical license is necessary in some cases and convenient to have in others.
For example, under federal law, a physical license is needed to take a concealed handgun into a school safety zone (provided the gun remains in a vehicle at all times and the vehicle, if unoccupied, is locked). Additionally, some individuals might choose to obtain a CCW license as proof of training or because it exempts them from needing a background check when purchasing a firearm. 
The timing of Ohio’s new concealed-carry law coincides with a nationwide surge in gun violence that began in 2020. Euclid, a Cleveland suburb, has seen a dramatic increase, Capt. Houser said, but he doesn’t think the new law will hinder the department’s efforts to reverse the trend.
“It’s not like this law is going to give criminals an ability they didn’t have before,” he said. “Criminals will be criminals, and they’re going to do what they do no matter what law is passed.”
Law enforcement officials say it is now imperative that officers make it standard practice to immediately ask motorists they stop whether they are carrying a concealed gun. Under the old law, anyone with a concealed gun had to promptly disclose that fact, whether or not the officer asked. The new law eliminates this “duty to inform.”
“The law says I don’t need a license to walk around or drive around with a weapon concealed,” said Hamilton County Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey. “And if a deputy encounters me, I don’t even have to tell the deputy I have a gun if I’m not asked about it. Furthermore, if the deputy finds out I do have a gun, he or she has no way of knowing whether I’m holding that gun legally.”
The mere presence of a firearm, without a legally compelling reason to further investigate, may not give rise to a reasonable suspicion or probable cause under Fourth Amendment case law. Law enforcement officers should consult their agency’s legal advisers about how permitless carry may impact the circumstances under which they can stop and frisk.
Chief Elaine Bryant of the Columbus Division of Police said the new law does present some challenges for officers and detectives, “but, like any change, we will find ways to adjust and overcome.”
The legal department has prepared division-wide training and legal updates, she said, and online videos and scenario-based, in-service training classes could provide other opportunities to educate her force.
Sheriff McGuffey is concerned that the law no longer mandates gun-safety education as a prerequisite to carry a concealed handgun.
“I think all of us in law enforcement are in a wait-and-see pattern,” she said. “We’re going to work with it, educate our deputies and do the very best we can.”
Capt. Houser said the Euclid Police Department is taking the same approach.
“We’re going to have to see what the numbers are,” he said. “We can look at the effects of constitutional carry in other states, but at the same time we’re not other states. We’re Ohio, and we have a different culture than other states. We may not see an effect at all; we might see a spike — that remains to be seen.
“We will adapt as necessary, just like the rest of the officers in Ohio.”

OPOTA Online course available

The Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy has created an online course titled “Concealed Firearm Carry Changes.” The course can help fulfill continuing professional training requirements for the Legal Updates category and is available at