Thursday, July 12, 2001

Both sides unhappy with gun-law proposal

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Supporters of the idea of carrying hidden guns without a license and those who oppose easing gun restrictions agreed on one thing Wednesday: The concealed weapons bill now before the House is bad legislation.

        The House Civil and Commercial Law subcommittee considering the bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Aslanides, a Coshocton Republican, heard from dozens of opponents at a hearing. The subcommittee will conduct another hearing July 25.

        Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner began by playing a 911 tape recording of a woman's frantic call to tell police that her 6-year-old daughter had taken the woman's gun out of her purse and shot herself in the chest.

        The child survived, but Mr. Finkbeiner said police departments would be getting similar calls should the bill become law.

        “As the cities of Ohio are attempting to control violence and the use of weapons on our streets, it is counterproductive for the state Legislature to loosen the laws to carry hidden guns,” Mr. Finkbeiner told the subcommittee.

        Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who is a co-sponsor of the bill, questioned Mr. Finkbeiner about police response times. The mayor said that it usually takes 3 1/2 minutes to seven minutes for a top-priority call.

        “A lot of harm could be committed against an unarmed citizen within 3 1/2 to seven minutes, couldn't it?” Mr. Seitz said.

        Mr. Aslanides' bill would require sheriffs to issue permits to applicants who have no felony record, mental illness or history of drug abuse. They also would be required to complete a gun safety course.

        John Gilchrist, a lobbyist for the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, said passage of the bill would make an officer's job more dangerous. He said allowing people to carry hidden guns could escalate a “come-to-the-rescue” mentality in which citizens intervene when they suspect someone is being harmed.

        “Officers sometimes have to determine in a split second whether the armed person they are confronting is a good guy or a bad guy,” Mr. Gilchrist said.

        The National Rifle Association supports the bill, but some gun-rights supporters say it's too restrictive. For example, they object to a provision that requires applicants to be fingerprinted.

        “We view it as a dangerous gun-control bill,” said Doug Joseph of the Ohio Gun Rights Coalition. “It's a beg-the-government-to-carry-while-being-treated-like-a-sex-offender bill.”

        Mr. Seitz said groups on both sides of the issue were too emotional in promoting their positions. Occasional murmurs of disapproval could be heard during the hearing.

        The bill has an uncertain future. Majority Republican leaders say it may not be voted on by the full House until late this year or next year. The Legislature is in recess and probably will not return until September.


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