A move by some Ohio state legislators to remove licensing and training requirements for carrying a concealed weapon is not finding support from local law enforcement officers.

The proposed legislation, known as House Bill 178, would allow anyone 21 and older to carry any concealed weapon as long as they are not legally barred from owning a gun. The House Federalism committee passed the bill two weeks ago. It is now headed for another committee, but possibly not until after the legislative summer recess.

Currently, those seeking conceal carry permits are required to have eight hours of training.

The legislation has found opposition from the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the Ohio Police Chiefs Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association.

Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand, Chardon Police Chief Scott Niehus and Geauga County Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri, who holds a commission with the Mahoning Sheriff’s Office and whose Great Lakes Outdoor Supply stores provide the training, all said that they believe training is an important component of carrying a firearm and should continue.

“I 100 percent fully support a law-abiding citizen carrying a firearm,” Sheriff Hildenbrand said.

But, he said, the training that people receive may serve not only to protect others, but also those carrying as well.

The sheriff’s office offers a first-come, first-served program for those seeking to obtain a concealed carry permit, but not all who apply walk away with one, Sheriff Hildenbrand said.

He said the sheriff’s office routinely rejects two to three applicants who apply for a license each week. Generally, he said, those rejected are because of criminal records. Two months ago, three people who applied are now under felony indictment for not being truthful on their applications.

He said he does not believe the training is “that big of time commitment” with classes generally conducted over one or two days.

He said the majority of that training is on safety, state laws regarding the legalities of pulling a gun, and not on shooting one. He said it is meant to protect the person carrying the gun as well as others.

He said people are required to be tested before driving a vehicle and the same should apply to carrying a gun.

“It gives us a little more protection and provides people with safety training,” Sheriff Hildenbrand said. “When people go out and purchase a gun, it’s nice to know they’ve gone through safety training.”

Chief Niehus agrees with Sheriff Hildenbrand that the training is important. “The training can show that bad things can happen to good intentioned people,” Chief Niehus said. “I don’t think it’s bad to hear from instructors of some of the bad things that can happen.”

If the legislation passes, Chief Niehus said, officers will be put under more stress while doing their jobs. “It’s an additional risk for officers that we have to take into consideration.”

Sheriff Hildenbrand and Chief Niehus said while officers making a traffic stop may get a heads up on who is carrying a weapon through a computerized data system, that aide is irrelevant in today’s society.

Both said officers must approach anyone today assuming that they have a gun.

“We anticipate anyone we come in contact with is armed,” Chief Niehus said.

“For the officer’s safety, in this day and age, we have to assume people are carrying,” Sheriff Hildenbrand said.

Mr. Spidalieri said he understands the need to protect gun rights in this country, but also understands the importance of receiving training and being qualified to carry a firearm.

He said he has seen first-hand those who have applied and have shown they are not ready to carry a firearm in public.

Besides the curriculum that shooters must pass, they are also required to show proficiency in handling a firearm at the shooting range. He said he knows of those who failed to show a responsible attitude when handling a firearm. He said they have failed students because of “off-the-wall statements” they have made as well as those who have been careless in handling a firearm. “We do not put up with any of that,” Mr. Spidalieri said.

Like Sheriff Hildenbrand, he believes getting a license to carry is much like getting a license to drive a vehicle. He said anyone can own a car, but must pass a test to drive it. He said owning a vehicle is a right, but driving it is a privilege.

“Owning a gun is a right, but the right to carry is a privilege,” he said.

He said the training is needed to assure that those carrying are doing so in a safe manner that protects them as well as others.

Joseph Koziol Jr. started his career in journalism in 1981. He joined the Solon Times in 1992 and covered the city of Solon for 10 years. An award winning reporter, Mr. Koziol has been covering Geauga County since 2012.

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