By Dylan McCament, KnoxPages.com Reporter
MOUNT VERNON - A new law that expands concealed-carry rights in Ohio is set to go into effect March 21. Among other provisions, the law will give state colleges and universities new authority to decide whether to permit licensed individuals to carry concealed handguns on campus.
Under current state law, the carrying of firearms on campuses is banned, even by those with a concealed handgun license (CHL). Colleges and universities have no legal discretion to set policy regulating the carrying of firearms on campus. The new law, Ohio Senate Bill 199, allows the boards of trustees at these institutions of higher learning to vote allow or to disallow the concealed carrying of firearms by those who hold a CHL. The boards also have the authority to allow only a certain licensed groups - such as faculty or staff - to carry concealed firearms.
KnoxPages.com has sought comments from the Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Central Ohio Technical College and Kenyon College regarding the bill and its possible implications for each institution. A representative from each was asked whether the boards of trustees had voted on the matter and whether the college or university in question was opposed to or in favor of allowing concealed carry on campus.
In response to questions on S.B. 199, Joe Noonan, assistant to the Chaplain for Mission and Ministry Opportunities at the MVNU, gave the following written response: "We have had representatives from the university present in various settings to learn about the bill and are framing our policies moving forward to present to our BOT."
Cheri Russo, a spokeswoman for COTC, gave the following written reponse to questions: "The college has no position on S.B. 199 at this time. This will be discussed in public session by the board at our March and May meetings."
She added that COTC's current concealed carry policy is in perfect compliance with S.B. 199.
Mary Keister, director of news media relations at Kenyon College, issued the following written statement in response to questions regarding the new law: "Kenyon College does not allow firearms on campus. A message will go out to the campus community in the near future regarding S.B. 199's implication for Kenyon's campus."
In an interview, Mark Kohlman, the chief business officer for Kenyon College, said, "The college has always had a policy banning weapons on campus. This law doesn't change that."
Governor John Kasich signed S.B. 199 on Dec. 19, 2016, in the wake of a knife attack on the Ohio State University campus in Columbus. So far, the impending law has had little effect on the policies of a number of state universities. Ohio State University, the University of Cincinnati, and Wright State University - to name a few - have announced plans to continue the ban on concealed firearms on campus.
OTHER ASPECTS OF THE LAW
S.B. 199 will also force private employers to allow CHL holders to store firearms or ammunition in a vehicle located on a company-owned parking lot. Currently, private employers have the legal right to restrict the carrying of firearms on company property, including parking lots. Concealed carry laws will be expanded in others ways as well: CHL holders will be allowed to carry firearms at public, non-secure areas of airports, private aircraft and some daycare centers. Active members of the military who have the same level of training as a CHL holder will be granted concealed carry privileges without a license.
The controversial new law has drawn both criticism and praise from groups across the state. The Ohio Chapter of Moms Demand Action, a group that promotes gun safety, released a statement calling S.B. 199 a "a dangerous gun bill" that "limits the ability of businesses to keep people from carrying guns on private property" and added that law enforcement officers, business leaders and college students have voiced concerns about the bill.
Those in favor of the bill include the National Rifle Association and the Buckeye Firearms Association, an Ohio gun advocacy group, which has stated that it is pleased by "the changes and improvements" that S.B. 199 will make to Ohio law.