COLUMBUS -- A Republican state lawmaker wants to clear up confusion in state law about carrying concealed firearms into churches.
Rep. Nino Vitale (R-Urbana) told the Ohio House's State Government Committee last week that vague language in state law is placing law-abiding concealed carry license holders at risk of criminal penalties and fines.
Which is where his HB 452 comes into the picture.
" What this bill does not do is allow CCW in a place of worship," Vitale said in testimony submitted to the panel last week. "It simply puts worship space under the same rules as all other private property, making things consistent and simple for Ohioans."
According to an analysis by the state's Legislative Service Commission, HB 452 would generally permit license holders to carry concealed handguns into places of worship, unless those locations post signs prohibiting such carrying.
Existing law prohibits concealed carry in churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship unless those locations opt to permit it.
Vitale, a concealed carry instructor, said Ohio's existing law on the issue "is gray, at best."
He said HB 452 would treat places of worship like other private facilities when it comes to concealed carry -- those locations that don't want concealed firearms on their premises could simply post a sign barring them.
"This bill does not seek to allow guns to be carried in churches," he said in testimony. " If a faith community does not want firearms on their property, they post a sign. This way the local faith community can still decide, but legal concealed carry holders in Ohio and from other states are not put at risk due to the current and confusing law. It becomes very clear to us if this property owner allows or does not allow concealed carry."
HB 452 has not been on a fast track for passage during this general assembly (it was introduced in February and had an initial hearing this week), with voting sessions scheduled to end in mid-December.
House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) told reporters this week that he expected gun-related legislation to move before the end of the year, though he didn't specify which law changes.
"We've got a couple of bills out there now that we're looking at, but we really haven't kind of smoothed those out to move forward," he said. "But I would probably foresee one or two of those gun bills maybe moving."
Among other bills still being considered is SB 199, which would allow active service military men and women to have concealed firearms without a permit. The Senate passed that bill on a unanimous vote in April.
Another, HB 235, would allow qualified veterans to carry concealed weapons without completing additional training. That bill passed the House on a lopsided vote in February.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.