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01-31-04: Conceal & Carry: Local people get ready to pack some heat


Area residents are signing up for gun safety classes in order to be ready when a new law takes effect April 9 allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons.
Meanwhile, sheriffs in Mercer and Auglaize counties and their counterparts across the state are scrambling with implementation plans designed to handle the expected influx of applicants seeking required permits.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey and Auglaize County Sheriff Larry Longsworth began receiving calls Jan. 8 — the day Ohio Gov. Bob Taft signed House Bill 12, lifting a ban that had been in place for decades.
“A lot of callers think permits became available with a stroke of the governor’s pen,” Grey told The Daily Standard. “The actual bill encompasses 141 pages, and it takes some time to wade through all the rhetoric.”
Longsworth adopted a wait and see philosophy as legislators bandied the matter for years.
“I decided to worry about ramifications when the time finally arrived,” he added with a chuckle. “Now it’s here on our doorstep.”
He called the legislation well written and indicated he had no problem with law-abiding citizens obtaining permits to carry concealed weapons.
“We should have done this a long time ago,” Grey said. “I think it will serve as a deterrent to crime because the bad guys won’t know who’s carrying and who’s not.
“As for the effect on deputies, police officers and troopers, they have been trained from the very beginning to consider each situation as potentially dangerous. They may be even more cautious now and that’s not all bad.”
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office is in the process of drafting the application form as well as the information pamphlet that is required reading for anyone wanting a permit. Actual implementation rests with the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association since county sheriffs are the only law enforcement officials authorized to issue permits.
Grey and Longsworth admit the application process, which involves mandatory fingerprinting and background checks, will increase their workload initially. They envision setting up designated hours, such as evenings and Saturdays, to handle the extra work.
“We’re going to be very busy at first,” Longsworth predicted. “I expect several hundred applicants early on before the initial interest wanes.”
Grey anticipates Mercer County numbers to fall just shy of 200, especially after people learn more about the provisions of the new law.
“Some people won’t want to jump through all the hoops,” he said. “And then there is the matter of cost — application and training fees.”
Longsworth agrees, adding prospective applicants may be surprised at all the restrictions. Weapons may not be carried in school zones, correctional institutions, courthouses, colleges, daycare facilities, churches or places of worship, establishments with liquor permits and airports to name a few. Businesses, including restaurants and stores, have the right to establish their own policies and that could involve gun owners being asked to check their weapons at the door.
“There are things that must be done if a permit holder is pulled over for a traffic stop,” he said. “And then there is the matter of liability. I really believe a lot of folks will decide not to apply and that is their prerogative.”
Applicants must register in their home county or in an adjacent county showing a driver’s license or state ID card in the process. There is a 30-day residency requirement and a minimum age requirement of 21. The background check is intended to weed out individuals who have been convicted of felony crimes, drug offenses or misdemeanors involving violence. Additionally, the applicant cannot have pending cases involving such offenses or be under civil protection orders. A 12-hour firearms course, including a minimum of two hours on a firing range, is mandatory except for honorably discharged military personnel with sharpshooter designation and retired police officers.
The fee cannot exceed $45 and Grey may offer on site digital photography for a couple dollars to ensure applicants have up-to-date color photographs.
Authorities will have 45 days to complete a background check and then 20 days in which to issue a four-year permit.
“If people provide necessary documentation and pass the records check, we have to issue a permit,” Grey added. “A sheriff does not have the right to reject an applicant who has jumped through all the hoops and passed with flying colors. This is one part of the legislation that concerns me.”
Lawmakers also added a provision for emergency situations. An applicant must show evidence of being in imminent danger, have no felony convictions or pending cases and submit to electronic fingerprinting. The 90-day permit cannot be renewed for a period of four years.
Rather than calling their offices for particulars about the new legislation and the application process, the sheriffs recommend checking the Web site hosted by Ohioans for Concealed Carry Inc. It can be accessed at www.OhioCCW.org.
Gary Kremer, owner of Kremer’s Guns in Celina, already has 50 to 60 students enrolled in the mandatory safety course and there is a waiting list for the next one.
“We’ll be offering as many classes as possible,” Kremer said. “However, finding certified instructors is not easy. They are in short supply as the April date approaches.”
Students, ranging from young adults to senior citizens, consider the $100 fee an investment in greater security. A number of husbands and wives attend classes together.
“The course involves a lot more than how to shoot,” Kremer said. “It deals with safety first and foremost.”
A gun shop proprietor for 20 years, he has seen customers — primarily women — purchase handguns and ammunition, only to hide them in the nightstand or under the bed. He questions the degree of safety the practice affords.
“Unless you know how to use a gun, it really won’t protect you,” Kremer said. “The bad guys will just take it away from you.”
He is glad lawmakers finally bit the bullet and lifted the ban, following the lead of 47 other states across the nation. He maintains the ultimate result will be greater security on the home front.
“Some people fear reruns of the Shootout at the OK Corral,” Kremer added. “It didn’t happen in other states and it isn’t going to happen here.”


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