More than twice as many Ohioans have started legally carrying concealed firearms over the past three years, according to the state attorney general’s office, and gun rights activists expect the number to continue climbing.
Another 49,825 people got their concealed carry licenses in 2011, the Cleveland Plain Dealer
reports, pushing the number of new licenses to 153,853 over the past three years. A total of 256,000 Ohioans have permits and more than 300,000 likely will have them as the year goes on.
“Eventually you aren't going to know who you might come into contact with who legally is carrying a gun, and that's the point,” said Jeff Garvas, of Ohioans for Concealed Carry. “Eventually people with bad intentions aren't going to realize who they are coming into contact with.”
However, gun rights opponents claim gun supporters use scare tactics to get more people to want guns.
“It’s the same thing happening over and over again," said Toby Hoover, of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. She expects more licenses will be issued this year because it’s an election year.
“Everyone is increasing the rhetoric of ‘don’t vote for this person’ or ‘vote for that person’ because they want to take your guns or they’ll protect your guns,” Hoover said.
Ohio’s Republican-controlled state legislature and Gov. John Kasich’s administration have also been adding more laws favorable for firearms owners. Last summer, Kasich signed a bill that makes it legal for gun owners to have their weapons in bars and restaurants.
The state legislature is considering a bill that could allow concealed carry permit holders to take their guns into churches, onto private and public college campuses, into daycare centers, and government buildings.
Another proposed bill removes rules that require a license holder to inform a police officer he has a license and is armed, and for the license holder to keep his hands in plain sight.
“It’s the typical gun lobbying slippery slope we’ve seen across the country,” Hoover said. “You say yes to something with reasonable restrictions and then they keep coming back and asking for more.”
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