4/02 OH CCW: Treating Rights Differently

Treating Our Second Amendment Rights Differently
Larry Pratt

Ohio is one of the states in which the government trusts the people the least as measured by its law governing the concealed carry of a firearm.

The current law is a virtual ban. One can, if one is feeling lucky, carry concealed. But if a police officer becomes aware of the measures you have taken to protect your life, he will probably arrest you (unless he is one of those old fashioned adherents of the Constitution who still puts the Constitution over “just following orders”).

Under the current Ohio law, the concealed carry offender is “graciously” given an affirmative defense. This means that after being arrested, booked, jailed and being taken to trial, the hapless self-defense nut can argue that he was only doing what a reasonable man would have done to protect himself.

Then, if a judge and jury agree, no problem. Just a little inconvenience and expense and you are back out on the street. And if you’re really feeling lucky, you can carry concealed again until a diligent order-following cop snags you again.

Several plaintiffs in Cincinnati took this vicious anti-self-defense law to court. They prevailed at the trial level. And now they have prevailed at the appellate level. This means that all of Hamilton County, Ohio is a Vermont-style concealed carry law zone. In other words, one is free to carry a concealed firearm there without a license or a permit.

It’s as if people were… free!

The unanimous decision of the three-judge panel had some wonderful language. For example:

    [The law] is unconstitutional under the Ohio Constitution (and arguably under the United States Constitution, but we do not reach the issue of whether it violates the Second Amendment)…. There is no doubt that the Ohio Constitution grants citizens the right to possess, and to bear, arms. That is exactly what it says.

    We are not England, where hunting was once the preserve of the landed rich; we are America, where the Pilgrims shot their Thanksgiving turkeys. We are not a country where power is maintained by people with guns over people without guns.

    Guns or no guns, we know of no other situation where a citizen is guilty until proven innocent. And no one has been able to tell us how someone walking might legally move a firearm from one location to another — if the gun is visible, a citizen will be arrested for inducing panic; if it is concealed, for violating [the law].

    The exercise of no other fundamental right subjects a citizen to arrest. Should a citizen first go to jail for voting, and be required to prove innocence of multiple voting? Should a citizen first go to jail for marrying, and then get out by proving innocence of bigamy? Should we jail people for publishing a newspaper, then require them to prove that what was published was not libelous or obscene?

The case now goes to the Ohio Supreme Court. In the meantime, at least one corner of Ohio is now a place where citizens are empowered to, as a GOA bumper sticker puts it, “Fight Crime, Shoot Back.”