To whom it may concern,
I am 28 years old and have three kids that I don’t want to have to go through what my family has been through in the last couple of months. Every week a member of my family or my friends has been stopped by officers in Zanesville Ohio for open carrying a handgun. We are proud gun owners and proud Americans, proud that we live in this great country that allows its citizens the right to keep and bear arms. Due to legislature passing of HB-12 over Governor Taft’s veto thus preempting all local open carry bans even in Ohio's "home rule" localities it is legal to open carry without being threatened by law enforcement. I personally have experienced officers in Zanesville issuing “inducing panic” warnings for doing nothing but open carrying a handgun. These officers come up guns drawn and demand citizens to put their hands up and go to their knees, these officers have no right to draw their weapons when there have been no threats to warrant such an action. My brother in-law was in a local gas station when three officers came in guns drawn and one of those officers slammed his handgun into his ribs and forced him to the ground, confiscated his handgun and handcuffed him. After an hour of them finding no crime to charge him with they let him go but kept his handgun. My brother in-law was just buying cigarettes and was open carrying. My friend was in my father in-laws back yard when two police officers cited him with a warning for inducing panic and all he was doing was talking to my family in the back yard not breaking any laws just open carrying. I can’t believe that these officers are allowed to induce panic in us citizens when we are breaking no laws. My neighbors and fellow peers that I have to see and live with every day no longer see me as a law abiding citizen because of these officers’ actions, not to mention that with their firearms drawn on me an accident could happen and myself, or other people I care about could be shot by these officers while we are breaking no laws. When I was in the National Guard I was taught that you never under any circumstances draw your weapon unless your life is in danger or a fellow soldier’s. I was not raised to allow anyone to point guns at me when I have done nothing to warrant such an action. I am here by asking that the Zanesville Police Department and Muskingum County Sheriffs be trained to handle these situations in a polite manner without the use of their firearms and to be reminded that the citizens of Ohio are allowed by law to open carry firearms in a holster or sling so long as it is not on property that doesn’t allow such and also that the citizens of this fine state are the reason we have such a great state. If I was to see an officer being shot at I would ask if they needed help or at least call 911 so that someone could assist the officer. If they continue to put the citizens of Muskingum County in their gun sights for no reason, the citizens of Muskingum County might not continue to support these officers in times of need.
1. As a general matter of law, the right to bear arms is a fundamental, individual right guaranteed by Section 4, Article 1 of the Ohio Constitution.* This right, however, is not absolute, and is subject to regulation.
2. Beyond the rights granted by the Ohio Constitution, Revised Code § 9.68 provides that, unless otherwise prohibited by State or Federal law, any person “may own, possess, purchase, sell, transfer, transport, store, or keep any firearm, part of a firearm, its components, and its ammunition.” Specifically included in this statute is the right to openly carry a firearm. See Revised Code § 9.68(C)(1). There is no requirement that the person first get a license, get permission or show any need prior to openly carrying a firearm.
3. Officer safety must always be a paramount concern and goal for peace officers. However, officers should not consider openly carrying a firearm as per se suspicious or criminal conduct. Openly carrying a firearm does not automatically equate into a Disorderly Conduct (R.C. § 2917.11) or Inducing Panic (R.C. § 2817.31) charge. To take this position would be tantamount to taking a position that a person may not exercise their statutory or constitutional rights without risking constant “Terry stops” or police arrest. This position is obviously problematic. Instead, the officer or the dispatcher needs to look at the totality of the circumstances. Is there reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal conduct is occurring? What are the facts and circumstances, beyond the mere presence of a firearm, that indicate it is reasonable to suspect criminal activity?
Simply reacting to every single “man with a gun” situation as an automatic “Terry stop” or felony stop will clearly have a chilling effect on the exercise of these rights by citizens, thus potentially opening the officer and the department up to civil liability. Officers and dispatchers should carefully question informants when being dispatched on these types of calls to verify what allegations of further suspicious or criminal conduct, if any, the suspect is engaged in. In a non-dispatch or informant situation, where the officer directly observes the conduct of the suspect, the officer should be ready to articulate what factors beyond the mere carrying of the firearm prompted the official police interaction with the suspect.
4. Nothing in Ohio’s concealed carry law requires a license holder to carry their firearm strictly concealed. Rather, Ohio’s concealed carry law is mostly a series of exceptions to the existing criminal statutes. For instance, see Revised Code § 2923.12(C)(2). The main statute, § 2923.12(A)(2), prohibits carrying a concealed handgun, and section (C)(2) simply states that the main statute does not apply to someone with a Concealed Handgun License. While some states do require strict concealment by their license holders, Ohio has not taken this approach. Further, there is nothing in Ohio’s concealed carry law that requires a license holder to forfeit their constitutional and statutory right to bear arms in order to obtain a Concealed Handgun License. Thus, a person who has been issued a Concealed Handgun License may still openly carry a firearm if they chose to do so, provided all other laws are observed.
5. Nothing in this article should be construed to mean that someone may openly carry a firearm where the person is otherwise prohibited from carrying a firearm. For instance, if the person is under firearm disability pursuant to Revised Code § 2923.13, the person may not openly carry a firearm, as the person cannot legally possess a firearm. Further, if the area where the open carry occurs in a prohibited area, such as a courthouse as provided for by Revised Code § 2923.123 or in a car as provided for by Revised Code § 2923.16, then the person may not openly carry the firearm.
Ohio gun owners have long been aware that open carry is a legal, if risky, option for exercising their Constitutional right to bear arms for self-defense.
Despite the many uncertainties, open carry is an important stop-gap measure for Ohioans who have no other means of protection or who have not yet obtained a Conceal Carry License or temporary emergency license.
ANY attempt to limit open carry in Ohio by law abiding citizens should and will be meant with legal action.