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Posted on Tue, Mar. 15, 2005            (See related article from March 8, 2004)

Concealed carry has little effect


Ohio legislation now year old, and much-feared road rage, other problems absent, sheriffs say



Beacon Journal staff writer

Ohioans have been carrying concealed weapons -- legally -- for nearly a year now, and so far, area law enforcement officials say they have not encountered the problems many feared.

Last April, when Ohio became the 46th state to permit law-abiding citizens to carry guns, some in law enforcement worried that routine traffic stops and road rage incidents would turn violent.

That hasn't happened.

``Knock on wood, so far it has been uneventful,'' said Portage County Sheriff Duane Kaley.

Through the end of February, more than 45,000 licenses have been issued in the state.

Summit is the leader in the five-county Akron-Canton area with 1,925 concealed licenses. Medina County is next with 1,370 licenses issued, followed by Stark with about 900 and Portage and Wayne with about 800 each.

Statewide, rural and suburban counties outpaced urban counties in issuing the most licenses per 1,000 adult residents 21 and over. The same was true among local counties.

For example, Medina, a suburban county, issued 13.1 licenses per 1,000 adults. In rural Wayne County, the rate was 10.6.

By comparison, Summit issued five licenses per 1,000 adults.

Overall figures compiled through the end of 2004 show Summit ranked fourth in the state behind Clermont, Montgomery and Butler counties.

In Summit County, there have been two cases in which applicants were charged criminally for withholding their criminal records. But overall, sheriff's offices say only a few applicants have been denied licenses.

``There's no one I've seen apply who I have a concern that they will not abide by the law,'' said Donna Vickers, a Medina County sheriff's secretary who is in charge of issuing the licenses. ``People seem to want to see the law carried through as it's meant to be.''

The application process has been time-consuming at times for both citizens and sheriff's offices, but officials say that's been the only downside.

``People have been good and patient about waiting for licenses and for their records to be checked,'' said Portage County's Kaley. ``We think the process has gone very smooth.''

Those wanting to get concealed gun licenses have to fill out an application, take firearms training, undergo a criminal background check and pay a registration fee.

Sheriff's offices can take as long as 45 days to issue permits. Some say the waits are getting shorter.

``Our turnaround time actually has gotten better,'' said Christine Croce, general counsel for the Summit County Sheriff's Office. ``It's taking no more than two weeks.''

On the enforcement end, none of the sheriff's offices reported any traffic stop problems or clashes in general between deputies and citizens with concealed-carry licenses.

Wayne County Sheriff's Capt. Doug Hunter said deputies with his department follow the same precautions they always have when making a traffic stop.

"We operate the same way we did prior to the application of the CCW (carrying a concealed weapon) law,'' Hunter said. ``So far, on every occasion, the CCW permit holders have been in compliance with the law and there have not been any negative encounters.''

Croce said the Summit County Sheriff's Office has not seen any incidents involving a concealed license holder as an aggressor or victim.

Vehicle concerns

About the only complaints received deal with the rules for carrying a gun in a car.

Concealed license holder Bob Campbell, 65, of Mantua explains: ``When you're out of the car, the gun's got to be concealed. But once it's in the car, it has to be out where police officers can see it when they pull over. Where is the change-over point?''

Firearms trainer Amanda Suffecool said the rules on carrying a gun in the car can sometimes lead to more gun handling than necessary.

She said citizens often are having to remove their guns from their person and then transfer the weapons to a locked glove compartment or gun case once inside the car.

"With gun safety, the more you handle, the more there's a chance of an accidental discharge,'' said Suffecool, vice president of Targething, a Portage County firearms training company that offers gun safety classes.

``In Ohio, you handle the gun many more times than you would in other states close to us with carry concealed laws. That is one of the problems with Ohio's law as far as I see it,'' she said.

Still, Campbell finds the car situation a small price to pay for being able to carry a gun.

Applying for a concealed license was more helpful than annoying, he said. He especially enjoyed the required firearms training, which he attended through Targething. He says he learned a lot about when to use and when not to use a gun.

Campbell, a stroke victim who walks with a cane, feels safer with his gun.

``I can't run, and I can't fight,'' he said, reiterating his reasons for applying for the concealed license. ``If I get in trouble, it's real handy to have a gun along with you.''


Andale Gross can be reached at 330-996-3743 or agross@thebeaconjournal.com. David Knox, the Beacon Journal's computer-assisted reporting manager, contributed to this report.

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