I just saw this on Twitter where ProgressOhio are asking folks to sign a petition to urge the still Democratic-controlled Ohio House not to pass two gun rights bills, SB 239 and 247.  Now, many of you may disagree with my views when it comes to Second Amendment rights, and that’s to be expected.  However, what ProgressOhio presents is still highly misleading.

For example, ProgressOhio says:

If they succeed, Ohio will be changed to allow:

– easy access to guns for criminals convicted of some drug crimes. Around 1,500 Ohio students are told every year they’re ineligible for federal financial aid because of drug convictions.  It’s sickening that this bill’s supporters will make it easier for many of them to carry a gun than to graduate college.

anyone with a permit to carry guns in bars, if they aren’t drinking.

Yes, it’s true that SB 247 makes it easier for someone with a drug conviction to legally possess a gun.  What ProgressOhio leaves out that the only thing that the bill does that only for people convicted of misdemeanor gun crimes.  Meaning that if you were busted for misdemeanor pot possession, you can’t risk being charged with a felony for having a gun while under “disability” later or face a potential federal charge in so doing.

In other words, all the bill does is clarify that the intent is to only ban people with drug related felonies from possessing a firearm post-conviction and not misdemeanor offenses.

This bill make Ohio less safe by allowing many people who the federally government bans from receiving federal student aid to own guns.

The fact that ProgressOhio makes this claim next to a chalk-outline on a road implies that dangerous and violent criminals are being armed by the legislature.  That’s not what is occurring.  The federal government doesn’t ban financial aid to these individuals because they are dangerous, either, but as yet another ridiculous attempt to increase the social consequences of recreational drug use enough to win the “war on drugs.”  Nothing more.

In fact, so outrageous is ProgressOhio’s position is that they ignored that Governor Strickland recently pardoned James Wheeler, a man with a marijuana possession simply so he could regain his Second Amendment rights to lawfully possess a firearm because the federal ATF said that despite the fact that an Ohio court had since granted Mr. Wheeler’s petition to lawfully be discharged from any disability from legally owning a firearm as a result of his misdemeanor conviction, he still was not, under federal law, legally allowed to own a firearm unless his offense was pardoned.   SB 247 would fix the very problem that prevented Mr. Wheeler from legally owning a gun under Ohio and federal laws.

Second, does this bill make it easier to carry a gun than to graduate college?

Sort of, but the difference isn’t as stark as ProgressOhio makes it appear.  First, we have to start with the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that there is an individual right to possess firearms.  However, there is no constitutionally recognized right to go to college.

But beyond that, the number of people who will have an easier time to get a gun than financial aid is much smaller than ProgressOhio lets on.  The federal government bars giving financial aid to anyone who has a drug conviction, but that bar only applies to people who have drug convictions since turning 18 and while already receiving federal financial aid

The number of people who meet both requirements to trigger a ban on federal financial aid is relatively small (ProgressOhio itself puts the number only at 1,500).  On top of that, a disqualified person can regain their right to receive financial aid simply by completing an “acceptable drug rehabilitation program.”  In the end, there is only a handful of people in Ohio in which ProgressOhio’s statement that they could get a firearm legally easier than they could get financial aid.  However, even in those instances, that is the result of federal, not State, policies.

On the other hand, people who lose their rights to possess firearms under Ohio law have to file a petition with a court of common pleas and convince a judge that they  meet and satisfy one of the conditions in R.C. 2923.14, et seq. to regain their right to lawfully possess a firearm.  So there is easily more people who have a harder time lawfully possessing a firearm in Ohio than getting federal financial aid than the vice versa position that ProgressOhio claims.

Regardless, I doubt in other contexts, ProgressOhio would refer to misdemeanor drug offenders as “convicts” and portray them in their petition today.

Now as to SB 239, ProgressOhio claims:

According to experts, it will also enable road rage violence, by making it legal for permit holders to "twirl the gun in their fingers while they’re driving down the highway.”

It’s true that SB 239, as passed by the Senate, removes the requirement that a gun in a vehicle be stored in either a holster on a person, or in closed glove box, or other secured case.  However, that hardly means that we’ll all be twirling six shooters during our morning commute the day this bill gets signed into law.  There’d still be potential civil and criminal liability that goes all the way, I believe, to felony murder.

After all, it wasn’t until 2004 that Ohio even had a law dealing with the improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle.  So again, there is some legitimate debate as to whether keeping that seemingly duplicate offense provides any additional deterrence.

SB 239 puts Ohio into the same regulatory environment for the storage and handling of firearms in a motor vehicle as other “Right to Carry” states have an eliminates a patchwork of confusing standards that could, based on prosecutorial interpretation, render a potential violation to be nothing but a fourth-degree misdemeanor to felonies.

It should be noted that both bills were co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Capri Cafaro, so they’ve had bipartisan support.  SB 239 was introduced by State Sen. Wilson (D).  Both passed the State Senate by 23-10, with bipartisan support.

If you still support gun control and oppose the right to even sober people to be allowed to carry a concealed weapon lawfully into a restaurant, then by all means contact your state legislators and sign ProgressOhio’s petition.  But let’s be reasonable about the issue, first.

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