No matter where one falls on the political spectrum, I think we can all agree that keeping guns out of the hands of toddlers is probably a good thing, right? And laws that make it more likely that a small child will come upon a gun by accident are probably a bad idea. But a new law under consideration by Ohio lawmakers could do exactly that, according to some critics. If enacted, the legislation could make it far easier for Ohio gun owners to bring firearms in the one place they really shouldn’t be: daycare centers.
According to a Cleveland.com report, the legislation expands a law that took effect earlier this year to allow gun owners to bring weapons more places, like the parking lot of a job or school — or even an airport baggage claim — without breaking state law.
Under the state's concealed-carry law, bringing a firearm into a gun-free zone in Ohio (and not leaving the property when asked) is a felony offense that could mean up to a year of jail time. But the Columbia Dispatch reported that this new legislation would strip penalties for concealed-carry permit owners who “knowingly or unknowingly” bring firearms into so-called “forbidden zones,” as long as they comply if asked to leave.
In other words, in Ohio it could soon be perfectly legal to carry a concealed weapon into any business, airport, daycare center, or even police department, as long as the permit holder is willing to leave if someone questions them about it. That’s enough to make one question the point of having a gun-free zone.
Why would Ohio need such legislation? Rep. John Becker, who sponsored the bill, told the Columbus Dispatch that his goal was to protect gun owners from harsh legal penalties if they find themselves in a forbidden zone:
People who carry guns inadvertently go into a gun-free zone not even thinking about having the gun on them. If you're wearing a watch or a ring, you don't realize it's there. It's the same thing with a gun.
But it isn’t the same thing. And conflating the two only serves to minimize the real danger that firearms can pose to children. Nearly 1,300 children die from gunshot wounds each year, and more than 5,000 more are injured by them, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For those wondering, the number of fatal injuries caused by watches and rings last year was exactly zero.
Moreover, the idea that gun owners shouldn’t be held responsible for simply remembering that they’re carrying a weapon seems more than a little ridiculous. In an interview with the Dispatch, Michael Weinman of the Fraternal Order of Police said that the vague legislative language on that point was problematic.
Police stations are obviously a place where you should know not to carry a weapon. And to say that you forgot or just happened to stumble into a police station is not a legitimate excuse.
Despite heavy criticism from more than 13 groups including Moms Demand Action, the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, and the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney’s Association, the legislation is inching forward, the Dispatch reported. Having passed out of committee by a 9-3 vote earlier this week, lawmakers could hold a full House vote as early as Thursday, according to that report.
If it goes into effect, Becker said, the law would give peace of mind to responsible gun owners if they “happen to forget” they’re carrying a weapon. (Because holding a gun owner responsible for that kind of power — the power to take a life — would be so prohibitive to their freedoms...) But the idea that more concealed weapons could be coming into daycare centers or school zones — and in the hands of owners who aren't fully aware they're even carrying them — may have the exact opposite effect on Ohio parents.