Ohio lawmakers may reduce penalty for carrying gun on college campuses


By Jim Siegel - The Columbus Dispatch



COLUMBUS — As Ohio State University students and faculty dealt with a campus attack Monday, the Ohio Senate this week could pass a bill that would reduce the penalty from a felony to a misdemeanor for carrying a gun on a college campus.

House Bill 48, which passed the Republican-controlled House a year ago, 68-29, also would allow universities to adopt policies permitting people to carry concealed handguns on campus.

According to authorities, the man who unleashed an attack at Ohio State today used his vehicle to run people over, and then wielded a butcher knife. He was killed by a campus police officer.

The bill was already scheduled for a possible Senate committee vote on Wednesday morning, prior to the attack at Ohio State. It is set for two hearings this week, and the full Senate could take up the bill as early as Wednesday afternoon, if leaders so choose.

The gun bill also would allow concealed-carry licensees to carry guns inside day-care centers and certain public areas of airports and police stations.

Lawmakers are expected to pass a flurry of bills in the next two weeks during the post-election lame duck session. Bills that do not pass by the end of December die and must be re-introduced next year.

While the bill was under debate in the House, the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association questioned the need for the changes, and the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police opposed the bill.

Rep. Ron Maag, R-Lebanon, the bill sponsor, has argued that reducing the penalty for a concealed carry permit holder who carries on a college campus is fair because it can be difficult to navigate where campus boundaries begin and end. When testifying on the bill early this year, he pointed to Ohio State as an example.

He also said the bill seeks to reduce “victim zones” in Ohio, where people are not permitted to carry a gun and are “vulnerable to crime.”

Republican lawmakers have steadily loosened the restrictions on carrying a handgun since Ohio’s concealed-carry law was passed in 2005.

By Jim Siegel

The Columbus Dispatch

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