*This a version of this story originally appeared in The Budget’s Nov. 15, 2017, Local Edition.
By Stacey Carmany
It’s a rainy Saturday morning in late October. A dozen individuals have gathered inside a small classroom attached to the Ohio Armament gun shop and indoor shooting range in Strasburg where they will spend the entire day learning the basics of firearm safety.
Their training will include six hours in the classroom and three hours on the range. At the end of the day, and so long as they have no disqualifying offenses in their backgrounds, they will be eligible to receive a state-issued Concealed Carry License, or CCL, and join the growing number of Americans legally authorized to carry a concealed handgun in public spaces.
A growing trend
More than 16.3 million adults across the U.S. are currently licensed to carry a concealed firearm in public, or roughly 6.5 percent of the adult population, according to a report released in July by the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), a research and education organization dedicated to conducting academic quality research on the relationship between laws regulating the ownership or use of guns, crime, and public safety.
Ohio began issuing concealed handgun licenses in 2004, and issued a record 158,982 such licenses in 2016, an increase of 64 percent from the previous year, according to data from the Office of the Ohio Attorney General.
It is estimated that more than 623,000 Ohioans, or nearly 7 percent of the state’s adult population, are licensed to carry a concealed firearm, according to the CPRC report.
Back at the classroom, NRA-certified training instructors Anne Baker and Bill Tinlin of TuscValley Practical Firearms Training LLC greet the students as they enter and ask each to present the handgun and ammunition they will be using during the hands-on portion of the day’s training. Guns are checked in for safe-keeping and magazines are deposited into a collection container in the back of the room.
After ensuring that each firearm is clear of ammunition, the instructors insert into the chamber a bright yellow flag, known as an open bolt indicator or OBI. “That tells us as instructors that that gun is safe,” Tinlin explains to the students.
“Last year in the fall, there was a gun class in southern Ohio at a rather large complex. There was an instructor with the students, and they were doing a malfunction drill in the classroom,” he continues. “Someone mixed in a live round with a dummy round. Someone pulled the trigger. Someone’s bullet went through the wall. Someone’s bullet struck and killed the other instructor. That’s why we check and double-check and triple-check. That’s why we emptied all of the magazines back there and that’s why all of them have an OBI.”
Following the explanation, the participants are asked to sign a Hold Harmless Agreement acknowledging known and unanticipated risks of the training and indemnifying the instructors and the LLC from liability should any accidents occur.
“There’s hazards in this sport, but it can be a very fun sport if done safely,” Tinlin shares.
He notes that a good rule to follow is when handling a firearm is to always treat it as though it is loaded. Additionally, the NRA recommends that individuals keep guns pointed in a safe direction and keep their finger off the trigger until they are ready to shoot.
After learning about the various safety precautions taken in the classroom and on the range, students are asked to introduce themselves and state their reasons for wanting to obtain a concealed carry license.
“I work as a safety specialist for a company, and I do a lot of traveling. I do a lot of early-morning traveling,” shares a woman from Dover. “A lot of times at out at 4 o’clock in the morning. I’ve broken down a couple times, and I’ve had a couple people come up to the car. It’s an experience that I’m not comfortable with.”
Another woman from the Dundee area notes that she works as an electrician and is always out traveling to different construction sites. “I work with 99 percent men around, and there’s always sketchy characters that you never quite know about,” she explains. “Just or my own feeling of safety, I guess, I would like to have a little security for myself on those jobs or even at home.”
A man from Bolivar sat that he is concerned for the safety of his wife who works long hours as a tax preparer. “I don’t want to a victim,” states the wife, who is also attending the class. “I want to know how to protect myself.”
After introductions, the students will spend the next several hours talking about the importance of situational awareness and reviewing the Ohio Attorney General’s handbook outlining the state’s Concealed Carry laws. They will take a written test covering safe handling and storage of guns and ammo before moving on to the range for three hours of hands-on safety training.
The application process
To be eligible for a Concealed Carry License in the state of Ohio, individuals must be at least 21 years of age without any felony convictions or convictions for domestic violence or certain misdemeanor drug offenses.
Applicants must also establish competency by submitting documentation that they have successfully completed the Ohio Peace Officer Training Program or a qualifying firearms safety course that includes at least eight hours of training that includes a minimum of six hours in the classroom and two hours of hands-on training.
Applications can be picked up at the local sheriff’s office or downloaded from the Ohio Attorney General’s website. Completed applications must be submitted to the sheriff’s office in an individual’s county of residence of an adjacent county. Applicants must also pay an application fee of $67 for a new license or $50 for a renewal or a $77 fee if they have not resided in the state for at least five years.
“When they come in, they just have to fill out the application and then bring in their certificate that they passed the class to us, and that’s when we go over the applications,” explained Deputy Rod Knecht of the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Department. “We put everything we need in a card on the computer, and then at the end of the day, we take their social security numbers and we give them to the midnight dispatchers, and then they run their background check. We also go to the state website, and we get their fingerprints.”
Once a background check comes back, it is reviewed by another officer for any disqualifiers including prior or pending felony convictions, certain drug-related misdemeanors and charges of domestic violence. A license can also be revoked for the same reasons. “Every once in awhile, we get like from a different county where somebody got a domestic violence charge on them, so they would let us know and we would revoke them until that charge was either dismissed, dropped down or they’re actually charged for it,” Deputy Knecht shared. “We’d have them hand in their license until they get that rectified in court.”
A license can also be denied or revoked for mental health reasons if an individual is ordered by a judge into a mental health facility. “If they willingly check themselves into a mental health facility, that’s not a disqualifier, but if that judge orders them in to be evaluated, then that would be a disqualifier,” Deputy Knecht said. “It’s kind of a weird nuance, but that’s the way it works.”
If everything checks out, that officer will then issue a license, which is good for five years from the date it was issued. The process typically takes no more than seven business, according to Knecht. “Typically, we say seven days, but we’ve been putting them out a little better than that,” he explained. “If you’d come in like on Friday and get the concealed carry, then our midnight dispatchers run it, if you don’t have anything in your background, he’ll probably issue it Saturday.”
In 2016, the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Department issued 2,344 licenses and 303 renewals, according to a report from the Ohio Attorney General. Holmes County issued 1,052 licenses and 289 renewals.
Restrictions and responsibilities
Once licensed, the individuals who completed the recent training class will be eligible to lawfully carry a loaded firearm on their person certain public spaces not otherwise designated as a forbidden carry zone.
“You cannot carry in a posted building, i.e. a ‘no gun’ sign: courthouses, police stations, sheriff’s offices, in a school building,” Tinlin explained. He noted that a concealed firearm also cannot be carried into a house of worship unless without permission of a pastor or an elder.
They will also be eligible to carry a loaded, concealed handgun in their vehicle, however, if they are pulled over for a traffic stop, they must promptly notify the officer of the handgun’s presence. “In Ohio, as it stands now, if you are stopped by law enforcement, we are called a ‘must notify’ state,” Tinlin explained. “In other words, if you get stopped, and I’m a trooper and I walk up to your car, before you do anything, you say, ‘Officer, I have a loaded handgun on my person. What do you want me to do?’”
Failure to promptly inform an officer that a loaded, concealed handgun is present in the vehicle is a first-degree misdemeanor which, in addition to any other penalty handed down by law, may result in the suspension of an individual’s CCL for one year.
They will also be able to lawfully carry a loaded, concealed firearm in other states, provided that Ohio has a reciprocity agreement with that state. To view a map of the states that currently honor licenses issued in Ohio, visit www.handgunlaw.us/states/ohio.pdf.
For more information about Ohio’s concealed carry laws, visit www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Law-Enforcement/Concealed-Carry.
In Tuscarawas County, CCL applications can be submitted at the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Department, located at 2295 Reiser Ave SE in New Philadelphia. Application hours are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with additional hours offered on Mondays from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays by appointment from 9 a.m. to noon.
In Holmes County, applications can be submitted to Holmes Sheriff’s Department, located at 8105 TR 574 in Holmesville. Applications are accepted Monday through Thursday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., excluding holidays.
Update: Year-end totals for concealed carry licenses issued in 2017 by county are as follows: Tuscarawas County – 1,516 licenses issued, 376 licenses renewed; Holmes County – 556 licenses issued, 175 licenses renewed. A total of 77,281 new licenses were issued statewide. (Source: Ohio Attorney General’s Office 2017 Ohio’s Concealed Handgun Law Annual Report)