By Erik Martin
DARKE COUNTY — Local law enforcement and political leaders have expressed their thoughts on the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 215, signed into law by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday.
The “Constitutional Carry” law, which goes into effect June 13, 2022, makes concealed handgun licensing optional. Ohioans 21 years of age or older, and not otherwise restricted by law, will be able to conceal carry a handgun without licensing, training, or a background check. Further, it removes the requirement for those with a concealed carry license to promptly inform a law enforcement officer of their armed status when they come into contact with an officer.
Darke County Sheriff Mark Whittaker issued a statement on his agency’s support of the new law.
“As a supporter of the second amendment, I understand the importance of your rights to lawfully possess and carry firearms for personal protection or sporting purposes, if you choose. This right is especially important to our citizens that live in the rural areas of Darke County. This law will make it easier for you to exercise this right,” he said.
“As your Sheriff, and a firearms owner, I am also an advocate of responsible and safe firearms handling,” Whittaker said. “I continue to encourage all firearms owners, new or seasoned to consider attending firearms courses for safety and proficiency. I would also ask that if you are carrying a weapon on you, and find yourself in an interaction with law enforcement, that you voluntarily inform the officer as soon as possible for everyone’s safety. Under the new law, if a law enforcement officer asks if you are carrying a handgun you must answer the officer truthfully.”
Whittaker said the Darke County Sheriff’s Office will continue to provide concealed handgun licensing to those who choose to obtain a license. The benefit to obtaining an Ohio Concealed Handgun License would be the ability to carry a concealed handgun in other states with which Ohio has reciprocity agreements. A lack of a license may not permit you to carry in other states. To schedule an appointment to obtain a concealed handgun license go to the Darke County Sheriff’s Office website, www.darkecountysheriff.org.
Whittaker told The Daily Advocate his administration has been reviewing the law and discussing the impending changes for a couple of weeks.
“We do not yet know what impact the law will have on the number of licenses that we will be issuing, but I anticipate it will result in a reduction. I will continue offering Concealed Handgun Licensing services just as we have been,” he said. “We will also be training deputies on the changes in the law. The training will consist of a legal update on the law itself. We will also train on how to address citizens during traffic stops and other encounters as it relates to the law. This may include deputies making inquiries about a citizens armed status. Interacting with citizens who are exercising their constitutional rights are nothing new for Darke County Deputies and I do not anticipate any major issues at this point.
“It remains to be seen what impact the law will have on crime. I would like to think that the criminals will think twice about committing crimes in Darke County, given the possibility more people may be armed to protect themselves. I will not be sympathetic to criminals who receive the wrong end of the gun when a law abiding citizen is protecting themselves,” Whittaker added.
Union City Ohio Police Chief Mark Ater called the new law “a historic day for Ohioans.”
“With the passage of Senate Bill 215, law abiding citizens will now be able to carry a firearm without a license. It is my opinion that crimes against people will decrease. Not knowing whether someone is carrying a firearm will hopefully encourage criminals to think twice before committing a crime on another person,” he said.
Ater said he has prepared the officers of the Union City Police Department on the new law that will go into effect in June 2022.
“Our agency is in favor of the new law, as it is a constitutional right to bear arms and as an agency we are in 100 percent support of the U.S. Constitution, a document that we as police officers have taken an oath to uphold. An oath that is very important to all of us, at the police department,” Ater said.
In Columbus, State Reps. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) and Susan Manchester (R-Waynesfield) both issued statements in support of the new measure.
“This is a historic day for both Ohioans and for the country,” Powell said. “This legislation secures 2nd Amendment rights for Ohioans, and empowers our law-abiding citizens with the right to carry without having to go through burdensome government red-tape.”
“The rights of Ohioans are non-negotiable,” said Manchester. “I’m proud to support this legislation that will ensure law-abiding citizens are able to protect themselves.”
Contact Daily Advocate Editor Erik Martin at [email protected].