Reprinted from the Daily Reporter
Existing law prohibits a person with a valid concealed handgun license from carrying a concealed handgun into a church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship, unless the church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship posts or permits otherwise.

As related to House Bill 452, Republican Rep. Nino Vitale insisted to fellow House members seated on the State Government committee that his aim isn’t to change law to allow guns to be carried in churches. Rather, the object of the bill is to clarify what comprises a place of worship.

Vitale’s resoluteness, however, is undercut to a degree by the bill’s summary, which notes the measure is “to generally permit a concealed handgun licensee to carry a concealed handgun in a place of worship.” “One of the biggest issues I hear is the confusion with lawful concealed carry in places of worship,” said Vitale, a gun instructor who also teaches state concealed carry classes. “Current Ohio law states a private property owner that does not wish permit holders to carry on their property must post a sign stating its prohibition. “However, with places of worship, one must obtain permission from ‘the proper church authority’ before carrying a concealed weapon in a place of worship. This is where the confusion lies.”
In the case of Catholics, such as Vitale, a lawfully permitted congregant must seek permission of the parish council, the bishop, the parish priest or the parochial vicar, he speculated during sponsor testimony of HB 452.

“If I worship in a rented facility, do I need to obtain permission from the leaders of the faith community as well as the private property owner?” he continued. “If I am not in the worship space, but a gathering hall, or corridor attached to the worship space, can a law abiding Ohio Conceal Carry holder legally carry in those areas? “The law is gray, at best.”

Existing law prohibits a person with a valid concealed handgun license from carrying a concealed handgun into a church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship, unless the church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship posts or permits otherwise. HB 452 would remove the prohibition, effectively permitting a licensee to carry a concealed handgun into a church or other place of worship, unless another provision of the concealed carry law prohibits a licensee from carrying a handgun into a place of worship.

According to Ohio Legislative Service Commission analysis of the bill, an ongoing provision of the law permits the owner or person in control of private land or premises to post a sign in a conspicuous location on that land or on those premises prohibiting persons from carrying firearms or concealed firearms on or onto that land or those premises. Were that the case and such a sign was placed in a conspicuous location at a place of worship, a licensee who knowingly carries a concealed handgun in the place of worship in violation of the posted sign is guilty of criminal trespass, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

“What this bill states is that we treat a worship space just like any other private facility,” the lawmaker said. “If they do not wish for law abiding Ohio CCW permit holders to carry, simply post a sign, as stated in the Ohio CCW Blue Book. All CCW permit holders are trained to look for this sign. And so are any out of state CCW permit holders.” The practice, Vitale said, is the same for retail establishments, restaurants, entertainment venues and small businesses. “It is very clear if the owner of the property allows or does not allow carry as we simply look for the posting sign or one like it,” he concluded.

The lawmaker also has backed House Bill 518, a measure to allow an elected Ohio office holder with a valid concealed handgun license to carry a concealed handgun in a state or local government facility. A prohibition against carrying a concealed handgun into a courthouse or another building in which a courtroom is located would remain intact. Under existing law and unchanged by the bill, “government facility of this state or a political subdivision of this state” means:

  • A building or part of a building that is owned or leased by the state or local government and where employees of the state or local government regularly are present for the purpose of performing their official duties; and
  • The office of a deputy registrar used to perform deputy registrar functions pursuant to the licensing of motor vehicles law.

Six fellow House members joined Vitale to cosponsor HB 452. Five of the aforementioned lawmakers joined three others to cosponsor HB 518. Neither bill was scheduled for subsequent hearings as of publication.