Leah Bartlam, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review
On March 14, 2022, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed Substitute Senate Bill 215, which will update Ohio’s concealed carry law effective June 13, 2022. Ohio is the twenty-third state in the United States to enact a law allowing people to carry concealed handguns without a permit (“permitless carry”). The term “Vermont carry” is also sometimes used to reference this practice because Vermont was the first state to allow it. Senate Bill 215 has been the subject of much debate, drawing support from Second Amendment enthusiasts and criticism from law enforcement, public safety policy groups, and firearms instructors. This article first endeavors to explain exactly how Ohio’s current concealed carry laws will change on June 13, then describes common arguments for and against Senate Bill 215.
While Ohio’s new concealed carry law does allow permitless carry of handguns, it retains many of the restrictions present in the current version of the law, such as age and location. Rather than completely reworking Ohio’s current concealed carry law, Senate Bill 215 will add one new section to the Ohio Revised Code and update other related sections. The Background section of this article discusses the new addition to the Revised Code, describes restrictions on permitless carry, and explains the changes in law enforcement stop procedures.
A. Ohio Revised Code § 2923.111
In short, Ohio Revised Code § 2923.111, which will take effect on June 13, 2022, allows qualified adults to carry concealed handguns without obtaining a license. A qualifying adult is a person who meets the requirements of O.R.C. § 2923.111(A)(2)(a) and O.R.C. § 2923.125(D)(1)(a)-(j), (m), (p), (q), and (s). First, a person must be at least twenty-one years old and legally reside in the United States. Further, a person must not be a fugitive from justice and must not be under indictment for, been charged with, pleaded guilty to, or been convicted of a violent misdemeanor, an offense involving an illegal drug, or a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year. Certain misdemeanors do not prevent a person from qualifying, provided that the person did not plead guilty or was not convicted within a specified period before carrying a handgun. Additionally, a person must not have been committed to a mental institution or anything similar as defined in O.R.C. § 2923.125(D)(1)(i). A person must also not have a suspended concealed carry license or be subject to any civil protection or temporary restraining orders. Finally, a person must not have been dishonorably discharged from the United States military.
In addition to satisfying the requirements above, to be a qualifying adult, a person must also not be prohibited from possessing firearms under O.R.C. § 2923.13 or 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)-(9). These statues have many of the same prohibitions as above but include a few additional disqualifications. To legally possess a firearm, a person must not be an unlawful user of or addicted to any federally controlled substance, be in danger of drug dependence, or be a chronic alcoholic. A person must also not have renounced their United States citizenship or been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, no matter how long ago. Basically, if a person would be barred from obtaining a concealed carry license or possessing a firearm under existing Ohio or federal law, that person cannot carry a concealed handgun under Ohio’s new permitless carry law.
Under O.R.C. § 2923.111(B)(1)-(3), a qualifying adult may carry a concealed handgun, provided that it is not a restricted firearm, without a license, but must still comply with all the regulations that govern those with concealed carry licenses. Further, § 2923.111 applies to all other sections of the Ohio Revised Code concerning concealed carry permits and regulations, such that a qualifying person is deemed to have been issued a valid concealed carry license for the purposes of those sections, unless the context indicates otherwise.
B. Restrictions and Exceptions
Ohio’s new permitless carry law retains the same restrictions as the current law concerning where people can carry concealed handguns. When applicable, under the new law, the exceptions to these limitations extend to qualifying persons who are carrying concealed handguns without licenses. First, O.R.C. § 1547.69 prohibits people from transporting loaded firearms in vessels (watercraft), unless the firearms are not accessible to the operator or passengers, and unloaded firearms, unless they are in a closed case or in plain sight with the actions open. The only exceptions to this rule are people with valid concealed handgun licenses and active-duty members of the military who have proper identification. Senate Bill 215 does not change this requirement; rather, it updates the language in the exception from “a person who […] is carrying a valid concealed handgun license” to “a person […] who has been issued a concealed handgun license that is valid at the time of that transportation or possession.” This alteration means that, under the updated law, a person will no longer need to have a valid concealed carry license to meet the exception as long as they are a “qualifying person” under O.R.C. § 2923.111(A)(2). If a person does have a concealed carry license, they will not need to carry the license on their person to qualify for the exception.
Second, under O.R.C. § 2923.121, a person may not carry a firearm in a place that has been issued a D permit (liquor permit) under O.R.C. § 4303 if any individual on the premises is consuming alcohol. An individual with a concealed carry license may carry a firearm in such a place so long as they are not consuming alcohol or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Effective June 13, qualifying persons carrying concealed handguns without concealed carry licenses will also be able to take advantage of this exception.
Similarly, O.R.C. § 2923.122 prohibits people from conveying firearms into school safety zones. However, an individual who has a concealed carry license may carry a handgun into a school safety zone if they do not enter school buildings or attend any school activities. They may also keep a handgun in a locked motor vehicle inside the school safety zone. Under Ohio’s new law, these exceptions will also apply to qualifying adults without concealed carry licenses.
Fourth, as outlined in O.R.C. § 2923.123, people may not carry firearms into courthouses or other buildings with courtrooms, regardless of whether they have been issued a concealed carry license. However, if the location offers such a service, a person with a concealed carry license may transfer their handgun to an officer in charge of the courthouse or building while the person is on the premises. As with the other sections discussed above, this exemption will apply to qualifying persons when Ohio’s new law goes into effect.
Ohio Revised Code § 2923.126 imposes further restrictions that apply to licensed, unlicensed, qualifying, and non-qualifying persons. This section prohibits people from carrying concealed handguns in police stations, detention facilities, secured areas of airport terminals, and other related institutions. These prohibitions will not be altered by Senate Bill 215. Additionally, every person carrying a concealed handgun must comply with the policies established by institutions of higher education, places of worship, and government facilities not otherwise regulated by the Revised Code.
Finally, O.R.C. § 2923.16 prohibits all people from knowingly discharging handguns while in or on motor vehicles. This section also regulates how people may transport firearms in motor vehicles but provides exceptions to those rules for people with concealed carry licenses. Effective June 13, qualifying adults may also take advantage of these exemptions. One part of this section, O.R.C. § 2923.16(D), forbids individuals from transporting or possessing loaded handguns in motor vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and contains no exceptions.
C. Law Enforcement Stops
The main Ohio Revised Code section that regulates the actions of people who are carrying concealed handguns is § 2923.12. Senate Bill 215 changes this section in three significant ways. First, under current Ohio law, if a person who has been issued a concealed carry license and is carrying a concealed handgun is stopped by a police officer, that individual must immediately inform the officer that they have a concealed carry license and a handgun, unless the firearm is in their home or vehicle but not on their person. This requirement places the burden of notification on the person with the handgun. However, effective June 13, that burden will shift to law enforcement. The new language of O.R.C. § 2923.12(B)(1) only requires a person with a concealed handgun to disclose the existence of the firearm to one officer during a stop. Further, a person does not need to notify an officer until the officer first specifically asks about the presence of a concealed handgun. If no officer performing the stop inquires about a concealed firearm, then the person being stopped need not disclose any information about their weapon. If a person was convicted of or pleaded guilty to a violation of O.R.C. § 2923.12(B)(1) before Senate Bill 215 takes effect, then that person may apply to request expungement of their record.
The second major change to the current version of the Ohio Revised Code also involves O.R.C. § 2923.12(B)(1). Right now, failure to inform an officer of a concealed handgun during a stop is a first-degree misdemeanor and results in the suspension of the person’s concealed carry license. Effective June 13, refusal to disclose a concealed handgun during a stop if an officer asks about concealed firearms will be a second-degree misdemeanor and will not cause the person’s concealed carry license to be suspended.
Third, under current Ohio law, a person carrying a concealed handgun may be arrested if they are not also carrying a concealed carry license. Even if that individual produces a valid concealed carry license within ten days of the arrest, they are still guilty of a minor misdemeanor. Effective June 13, individuals will no longer need to produce a concealed carry license if they are stopped while carrying a handgun. However, they may still face penalties if they are arrested for carrying a concealed handgun and are convicted or plead guilty to the violation. This is most likely to happen if a person is barred from carrying a concealed weapon under the restrictions outlined by O.R.C. § 2923.111(A).
A. Benefits to Enacting a “Constitutional Carry” Law
Several firearms groups, such as the Buckeye Firearms Association and the Firearms Policy Coalition, testified in front of the Ohio Legislature as proponents for Senate Bill 215. They offered an array of arguments for loosening Ohio’s current concealed carry law. John Weber, state director of the National Rifle Association (NRA) Institute for Legislative Action, offered testimony on behalf of the NRA. First, Mr. Weber emphasized the fact that over twenty other states already allow permitless concealed carry, so Senate Bill 215 is not an unusual piece of legislation. Additionally, Mr. Weber pointed out that many of the existing restrictions on carrying concealed handguns are retained by Senate Bill 215. Ohio’s new law also does not change the restrictions on purchasing firearms. Third, according to Mr. Weber, FBI crime data shows that in five states with constitutional carry laws, public safety was not negatively impacted by laws allowing permitless carry. Interestingly, in several states, after constitutional carry laws were passed, applications for concealed carry permits actually increased. Finally, Mr. Weber argued that the purpose of Senate Bill 215 is to put law-abiding citizens on “equal footing” with those who already carry concealed firearms illegally and eliminate unnecessary costs and regulations.
Rob Sexton, who testified on behalf of the Buckeye Firearms Association, offered many of the same arguments that Mr. Weber presented. Additionally, Mr. Sexton emphasized the fact that Senate Bill 215 does not alter current use-of-force regulations. Under Ohio’s new law, people still need to meet the same standard to use deadly force. Mr. Sexton articulated the standard in this way: “You may use lethal force for self-defense when you have a reasonable and honest belief that you are in danger of immediate and unavoidable death or great bodily harm.”
Terry Johnson, an Ohio senator from the 14th Senate District, sponsored Senate Bill 215. In his testimony, he invoked Section 4 of the Ohio Constitution’s Bill of Rights: “The people have the right to bear arms for their defense and security; but standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and shall not be kept up; and the military shall be in strict subordination to the civil power.”
B. Problems Arising Under a “Constitutional Carry” Law
Both police officers and firearms instructors have expressed concerns that Ohio’s new law will result in more accidents and increased gun violence. On February 17, 2022, Michael Weinman, a retired police officer from Columbus, testified before the Ohio House of Representatives on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio. Mr. Weinman expressed strong opposition to Senate Bill 215 based on concerns about officer safety. In particular, Mr. Weinman presented statistics showing that the number of police officers killed by gunfire per year has been steadily increasing since 2018. Further, in 2020, police suspended or revoked 2,047 concealed handgun licenses and denied 1,777 license applications. Mr. Weinman argued that under Ohio’s new law, these people would have no incentive to obtain or maintain licenses and would instead carry firearms without considering restrictions. Finally, Mr. Weinman noted that police officers may encounter any number of situations in which they need to stop people without being able to access LEADS (Law Enforcement Automated Data System) first. According to Mr. Weinman, this problem will become more pronounced when people are no longer required to carry concealed carry licenses while carrying handguns.
Tom Austin, executive director of the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, testified concerning the updates to the duty to notify police officers during stops. Mr. Austin contended that “[w]hile it is hopeful that most people carrying a concealed weapon will tell an officer they have one, there is no guarantee they will. As a responsible gun owner, the onus should always be on that person to advise law enforcement that they are carrying. Those in legal possession of firearms should have no reason to fear notifying the police.” Due to these concerns, the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is opposed to Senate Bill 215.
The Ohio Legislature also considered statistics compiled by GVPedia, a gun violence research project, showing that gun violence tends to increase after permitless carry laws are enacted. According to GVPedia’s research, “[s]tates that pass a Permitless Carry law suffer from a 22% increase in gun homicide for the three years after the law’s passage, more than doubling the 10% increase for the country overall in the same time period.” To support this conclusion, GVPedia analyzed the thirty-five national level academic studies on concealed carry laws published since 2005. The majority of these studies also found that violent crime tends to increase after concealed carry laws become more permissive.
Currently, to obtain a concealed carry license in Ohio, a person must complete eight hours of training, including classroom time and time spent at a gun range learning how to properly fire a handgun. Most of the classroom time is dedicated to understanding the legal responsibilities and limitations of owning and using a firearm. Firearms instructors in the Akron, Ohio area have expressed concern that people will be able to carry concealed handguns without completing any of this training. One instructor, Adam Kusicki, told the Akron Beacon Journal that although he supports the Second Amendment, he also believes that the new law disregards the phrase “well-regulated militia.”
Although Senate Bill 215 allows people to carry concealed handguns with licenses, it does not substantially change current regulations governing firearms. People who would be barred from obtaining concealed carry licenses will still be prohibited from carrying handguns on June 13, and restrictions regarding where firearms may be carried will still apply. The most significant change applies to law enforcement stops. Unless an officer specifically asks about concealed weapons, a person who is stopped will no longer have a duty to inform the police that they are carrying a handgun. Proponents of Senate Bill 215 emphasize the idea that law-abiding citizens should be able to carry concealed handguns more easily for self-defense. Several law enforcement groups in Ohio are adamantly opposed to Ohio’s new law because of the risks it may pose to the safety of police officers and the public at large. However, the true effects of Senate Bill 215 remain to be seen.
 Cameron Knight, What to know about Ohio’s new permitless concealed carry law, Cincinnati Enquirer (Mar. 15, 2022)(last updated Mar. 19, 2022), https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2022/03/15/what-know-ohios-new-permitless-concealed-carry-law/7046104001/; Eric Marotta, Akron-area police, firearms instructors react to Ohio’s new ‘constitutional carry’ gun law, Akron Beacon Journal (Mar. 19, 2022), https://www.beaconjournal.com/story/news/2022/03/19/akron-police-firearms-instructors-react-constitutional-carry-gun-law-ccw-no-permit-required/7051914001/.
 Constitutional Carry/Unrestricted/Permitless Carry, U. S. Concealed Carry Association (last visited Mar. 26, 2022), https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/resources/terminology/types-of-concealed-carry-licensurepermitting-policies/unrestricted/.
 [The] Story Behind Constitutional Carry / Permitless Carry, U. S. Law Shield (Mar. 31, 2021), https://www.uslawshield.com/constitutional-carry-2021/. Virginia has allowed this practice from its founding.
 Eric Marotta, supra note 1.
 Sub. S.B. 215, 134th Gen. Assemb. § 1 (Ohio 2022) (altering O.R.C. §§ 1547.69, 2923.12, 2923.121, 2923.122, 2923.123, 2923.126, 2923.128, 2923.16, 2953.37, and enacting § 2923.111).
 This article only covers the significant changes made to the Revised Code. Refer to Sub. S.B. 215, 134th Gen. Assemb. § 1 (Ohio 2022) for details about minor alterations.
 O.R.C. § 2923.111(B)(1).
 O.R.C. § 2923.111(B)(2)(a)-(c).
 O.R.C.§ 2923.125(D)(1)(a)-(b).
 O.R.C. § 2923.125(D)(1)(c)-(e). Some juvenile offenses are also included in these provisions.
 O.R.C. § 2923.125(D)(1)(f)-(h).
 O.R.C. § 2923.125(D)(1)(j), (m).
 O.R.C. § 2923.125(D)(1)(q).
 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3); O.R.C. § 2923.13(A)(4).
 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(7), (9).
 Currently, to obtain a concealed carry license, a person must undergo a background check. To carry a concealed handgun under Ohio’s new law, a person will not need to have a background check performed. See Eric Marotta, supra note 1.
 O.R.C. § 2923.111(C).
 Other specific exceptions, such as for law enforcement officers, are also included in these sections.
 O.R.C. § 1547.69(B)-(D).
 O.R.C. § 1547.69(H)(2).
 Sub. S.B. 215, 134th Gen. Assemb. § 1 at Sec. 1547.69(H)(2) (Ohio 2022).
 Ohio Legislative Services Commission, Bill Analysis, Sub. S.B. 215, 134th Gen. Assemb., at 1 (2022). This change applies to all the exceptions listed in this article.
 O.R.C. § 2923.121(A). Under O.R.C. § 2923.121(E), it is a felony to violate this restriction.
 O.R.C. § 2923.121(B)(1)(e).
 Sub. S.B. 215 § 1 at Sec. 2923.121(B)(e).
 Objects that are visually indistinguishable from real firearms are also prohibited.
 O.R.C. § 2923.122(D)(3).
 O.R.C. § 2923.122(D)(4).
 Sub. S.B. 215 § 1 at Sec. 2923.122(D).
 O.R.C. § 2923.123(C)(6).
 Sub. S.B. 215 § 1 at Sec. 2923.123(C)(6).
 O.R.C. § 2923.126(B)(1).
 Sub. S.B. 215 § 1 at Sec. 2923.126(B)(1).
 O.R.C. § 2923.126(B)(5)-(7).
 O.R.C. § 2923.16(A). Extremely limited exceptions, which will not be altered by Senate Bill 215, apply. See O.R.C. § 2923.16(F).
 O.R.C. § 2923.16(B)-(C).
 Interestingly, the original language of Sub. S.B. 215 would have prohibited law enforcement from stopping individuals solely based on their possession of a handgun. See Sub. S.B. 215, 134th Gen. Assemb. (Ohio 2021) (as introduced), https://search-prod.lis.state.oh.us/solarapi/v1/general_assembly_134/bills/sb215/IN/00/sb215_00_IN?format=pdf. This language was passed by the Senate but rejected by the House of Representatives.
 O.R.C. § 2923.12(B)(1), (C)(1)(c)-(d). Other restrictions also apply to people carrying concealed handguns during stops. For example, they must always keep their hands in clear sight and cannot make any contact with their handguns, unless expressly directed to do so by law enforcement. See O.R.C. § 2923.12(B)(2)-(4).
 Sub. S.B. 215 § 1 at Sec. 2923.12(B).
 Id. Once an officer inquires about a concealed handgun, a person must truthfully answer about any firearms.
 Sub. S.B. 215 § 1 at Sec. 2923.12(E)(2).
 O.R.C. § 2923.12(F)(3). If the officer performing the stop has actual knowledge of the person’s concealed carry license, then the person is only guilty of a minor misdemeanor and the person’s concealed carry license is not suspended.
 Sub. S.B. 215 § 1 at Sec. 2923.12(F)(3).
 O.R.C. § 2923.12(F)(2).
 O.R.C. § 2923.12(F)(2)(a). Depending on the status of the license, other penalties may also apply under O.R.C. § 2923.12(F)(2)(a)-(c) and 2923.12(F)(7).
 Sub. S.B. 215 § 1 at Sec. 2923.12(F)(2).
 Senate Committees, The Ohio Legislature (last visited Apr. 20, 2022), https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-committee-documents?id=GA134-SB-215. Some of the testimony offered for and against Senate Bill 215 was delivered before the legislation reached its current version.
 National Rile Ass’n of Am., Testimony on Substitute Senate Bill 215, S. 134th Gen. Assemb., at 1 (2022).
 Id. at 1-2.
 Id. at 2.
 Buckeye Firearms Association, Testimony of Rob Sexton, S. 134th Gen. Assemb., at 1-2 (2022).
 Id. at 2.
 Terry Johnson, Sponsor Testimony, S. 134th Gen. Assemb., at 1 (2022).
 Id. at 2.
 Eric Marotta, supra note 1. Medical experts, policy groups, and other individuals have also opposed Substitute Senate Bill 215. See Senate Committees, The Ohio Legislature (last visited Apr. 20, 2022), https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-committee-documents?id=GA134-SB-215.
 Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, Testimony on Substitute Senate Bill 215, H. R. 134th Gen. Assemb., at 1 (2022).
 Id. at 2.
 Id. at 3.
 Id. at 2.
 Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Ass’n, Testimony on Substitute Senate Bill 215, H. R. 134th Gen. Assemb. at 1 (2022).
 Id. at 2. The validity of this statement is questionable. In 2016, Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez shot Philando Castile seven times after Mr. Castile informed Officer Yanez that he had a concealed carry license and a handgun in his car. See Mitch Smith, Minnesota Officer Acquitted in Killing of Philando Castile, New York Times (Jun. 16, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/us/police-shooting-trial-philando-castile.html.
 Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Ass’n, supra note 62, at 1.
 GVPedia, GVPedia’s Permitless Carry Factsheet, H. R. 134th Gen. Assemb. at 1 (2022) (presented by Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence).
 Id. at 2.
 Eric Marotta, supra note 1.