What has changed under Ohio law?
On June 13, 2022, Ohio Senate Bill No. 215, known as Ohio’s “Constitutional Carry” law, went into effect. Codified at R.C. 2923.111, the new law permits a “qualifying adult” to legally carry, possess or conceal a handgun without having to obtain a concealed carry license or undergo the background check and firearm training that was previously required in order to obtain the concealed carry license under R.C. 2923.125 (Ohio’s concealed-carry license statute).
Who is a “qualifying adult” under the new law? Under new R.C. 2923.111, a “qualifying adult” means a person who is 21 years old or older, not legally prohibited from possessing or receiving a firearm under federal law or state law, and who satisfies various other criteria listed in R.C. § 2923.111(A)(2)(a) and R.C. § 2923.125(D)(1)(a)-(j), (m), (p), (q), and (s), such as:
- Must be residing in the United States
- Cannot be a fugitive from justice
- Was not dishonorably discharged from the United States military
- Cannot be under indictment for, been charged with, pleaded guilty to, or been convicted of a violent misdemeanor, an offense involving an illegal drug, or a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year
- Cannot be under adjudication for mental illness and must not have been adjudicated as mentally ill, committed to any mental institution, or found by a court to be mentally ill subject to court order
Therefore, as of June 13, 2022, it is optional for a qualifying adult in Ohio to obtain a concealed handgun license. Instead, a qualifying adult may conceal carry anywhere that someone with a license can carry and they possess the same rights and responsibilities. The law is clear that qualifying adults carrying a non-restricted handgun will be treated as though they have a valid concealed carry license.
The new law also provides that all lawful firearm carriers (e.g. qualifying adults under the new law as well as those with the now optional concealed-carry license) are no longer required to promptly inform law enforcement officers they are carrying a concealed firearm during an official stop. Rather, they must only disclose that they are carrying a concealed weapon when, and if, the officer directly asks them. Municipal police departments, as well as County Sheriff’s offices, should ensure that their patrol officers/deputies are fully aware of this important change and that they implement procedures that are in compliance.
What should political subdivisions, as public employers, know?
Concealed weapons continue to be banned from government buildings (including police stations, jails, and courtrooms), school safety zones (unless otherwise specifically authorized), airports and airplanes, or any place where the carrying of a concealed weapon is prohibited by federal law. See RC. 2923.126. However, under R.C. 2923.121, political subdivisions should ensure that they have appropriate signage displayed and posted at the entrance, exits and other conspicuous locations of all government-owned or -controlled buildings and property where the carrying of concealed handguns is prohibited. Pursuant to statute, such signage must include a statement in substantially the following form: "Unless otherwise authorized by law, pursuant to the Ohio Revised Code, no person shall knowingly possess, have under the person's control, convey, or attempt to convey a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance onto these premises." See R.C. 2923.121.
Further, Ohio’s new law still permits public employers to establish, maintain and enforce the same reasonable and equally applied workplace policies prohibiting employees from carrying handguns or firearms in government-owned buildings or within government-owned vehicles as before. However, since 2017, public employers have been restricted from establishing, maintaining or enforcing any policy or rule that would prohibit a person with a valid concealed carry license from transporting or storing their firearm or ammunition in their privately owned motor vehicle, even when the vehicle is parked on the public employer’s property. R.C. 2923.1210.
Under R.C. 2923.1210, if an employee’s vehicle is parked in a location where it otherwise is permitted to be, employees with concealed carry licenses are permitted to lawfully transport and store their firearm and ammunition in their private motor vehicle so long as the firearm and all of the ammunition remains inside their privately owned motor vehicle while the employee is physically present inside the motor vehicle, or it is locked in the trunk, glove box, or other enclosed compartment or container in the employee’s privately owned motor vehicle when the employee exits the vehicle.
Under new R.C. 2923.111, as of June 13, 2022, the same right to transport and store firearms and ammunition in a private vehicle now equally applies to all qualified adults without a concealed carry permit. Therefore, because all qualifying adults now have all the same rights that are granted to individuals who have been issued concealed carry licenses, public employers will not be permitted to enforce rules prohibiting those without concealed handgun licenses from transporting or storing firearms or ammunition in their private motor vehicles. As such, public employers should consider reviewing and revising their employee handbooks or applicable policies to ensure they remain compliant with this change in the law.
To the extent policies, procedures and practices are revised or rescinded in light of Ohio’s new “Constitutional Carry” law, political subdivisions should provide their employees with notice as soon as practicable and also be sure to comply with any obligations set forth in an applicable collective bargaining agreement. Political subdivisions also should closely monitor the applicable law and be prepared to take proactive steps to adjust policies and practices as new guidance or decisions become available.