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February 29, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Right to bear arms, or right to forbid them

Amid new legislation and a Supreme Court challenge, it seems Ohioans have more to say about their Second Amendment rights than in recent years.

The right to bear arms is again in question, after the Ohio Supreme Court agreed to hear a case where state and city carrying laws are in conflict.

The laws in Clyde, a city in the neighboring county of Sandusky, prohibit concealed guns in city parks. In 2004, with the passage of House Bill 12, the list of prohibited areas included schools, government property and venues serving alcohol, but not parks. The confusion arose when Bill 347, which was vetoed by former Gov. Bob Taft and later overridden by legislatures last year, held that local laws be no more restrictive than state laws.

After originally filing suit against the city of Clyde, the Ohioans for Concealed Carry, a gun rights lobbyist organization, lost their case. They appealed and won, leading Clyde to further appeal the case to the highest state court. OCC President Jeff Garvas said he supports the city’s appeal.

‘Our motivation for being on board is that if we win, the precedent is state wide,’ said Garvas, who hopes the case will resolve the problems other cities have with the law.

Speaking from his cellular phone at work, Garvas comes across as an upbeat and law- savvy man. He switches from legalese to the specific controversy at hand: guns in parks. Garvas said just mentioning a park brings to mind the thought of kids on swing sets, but he quickly noted that the parks can still be ideal grounds to commit crimes.

‘Vast, wooded areas, where you’re isolated from society are some of the most dangerous places you can be,’ he said. ‘The chances of being in a violent crime in a park are significantly high.’

Toby Hoover’s opinion of parks is a bit different. Hoover is the executive director of Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, and she said whether a person is walking in a park alone or after dark makes a difference in the occurrence of violent crimes.

‘Parks are made for kids going to swing and play ball,’ she said. ‘Most of us wouldn’t walk in a park at 2 a.m.’

But some carriers don’t let time or circumstances prevent them from bringing their firearm. Chris West, a graphic design major at the University takes his semi-automatic Glock anywhere it’s legal.

‘You watch the news and someone gets shot everyday,’ said West in front of the bustling Starbucks on campus. West grew up hunting and fishing with his family near Dayton. He said the need to protect himself in a range of situations, from encountering a mentally-ill criminal to being caught in crossfire, is why he carries.

‘I feel it’s nice to be ready for anything,’ he said.

Still, that preparedness may seem like paranoia to others.

Hoover said she notices that gun owners have ‘an extra measure of fear than a lot of people,’ adding that the ‘good guys versus bad guys’ argument for carrying is weak.

She said the focus of arguments about gun violence is on those without licenses. These so called ‘bad guys’ are what licensed carriers are concerned about. The problem in that scenario, said Hoover, is that even licensed carriers can do bad things.

‘We say only good guys can carry, but everyone’s born a good guy,’ she said.

Carolyn Frum knows her family is like those ‘good guys.’ They use firearms to hunt for food and never for sport, she said. Frum also grew up in a hunting family and now lives in a small home with her husband on Campbell Hill Street. Their house runs against Carter Park on two sides, a 4-foot chain-link fence separating their backyard from the Frisbee golf courts, monkey bars and softball field.

And while Frum has mixed feelings about the carrying laws in Ohio, she said she doesn’t like the idea of guns near children. When asked in which situations she finds it appropriate to carry in the park, Frum said, ‘no circumstances ‘hellip; really none.’

Another licensed carrier, Mike Vatan regularly brought his 45 caliber semi-automatic to work. As security at a gentleman’s club in Las Vegas, he said he carried for protection and never intended to use it. Now back in Bowling Green, deejaying at downtown’s Skybar, Vatan stores his gun safely at home. He doesn’t see a need to carry it at all times.

‘The threat level here is significantly lower, but [my gun] is still accessible,’ he said.

As for the Supreme Court case, both Hoover and Garvas see their side of the issue coming out on top. Hoover is hoping ‘home rule,’ which says the local government should have priority over state, will dictate that the city should have its way.

Garvas is confident that similar cases in Ohio will shape court opinion.

‘We’re on some very strong ground in this case,’ he said.

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