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Some Republicans want to make Ohio a 'Second Amendment sanctuary state'

guns on display in a gun store
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau

State lawmakers are considering a bill its Republican sponsors say will protect Ohio gun owners from federal laws and policies that they think go too far. The bill would declare Ohio a “Second Amendment sanctuary state” to encourage police not to enforce federal gun control measures.

House Bill 51 would prohibit taxes or fees from being imposed on firearms, but not other goods. It would block any federal requirement to track ownership of firearms and firearm-related products.

During a hearing in the Ohio House Government Oversight Committee, both supporters and opponents raised questions and concerns.

The only proponent of the bill to testify was Jered Taylor, a Republican former state representative in Missouri, which recently passed a similar law. Taylor was speaking for Ohio Gun Owners, a right-wing group that pushes for the elimination or blocking of all gun regulation.

Taylor said a rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) on a device commonly known as pistol braces would be going into effect soon. Taylor said without passing this bill, Ohio law enforcement could be allowed to go after citizens who possess these gun accessories.

“You would be giving Ohio law enforcement the green light to enforce federal tyranny,” Taylor said.

Rep. Dani Isaacsohn (D-Cincinnati) said there was good reason for concern when it comes to pistol braces. He noted a pistol brace was used in the 2019 mass shooting in Dayton that left nine people dead and 17 wounded.

"Forty-one shots in 30 seconds killed nine people in Dayton and you know how he did it? He was using a pistol brace, a pistol brace that turns a regular AR 15 pistol or any sort of pistol he was using into effectively a machine gun that can gun down nine people, 41 shots in 30 seconds,” Isaacsohn said.

“It’s obvious you don’t know what a pistol brace is,” said Taylor. “It has nothing to do for the rate of fire. It is simply for an individual with a disability, that is what it was originally designed for, to help them utilize the activity and enjoy their second amendment rights as a disabled person,” Taylor added.

Isaacsohn said he knew exactly what the pistol brace was and how it has been employed. And he said it is reasonable for the feds to be concerned.

Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) said he is concerned that part of the bill would prevent someone who has worked in the federal government from working for state law enforcement, something Seitz said was "kind of dumb."

“That is in the bill,” Taylor said. “If a federal official or federal officer is going to enforce federal tyranny on the Ohio citizens, why would we want them to come over and continue to enforce that on our citizens?” Taylor asked.

Seitz said that's a problem for him.

“It’s an outright bar, as I understand it, in hiring any federal law enforcement person or U.S. attorney, whether they have been involved in the activities to which you object or not. And I am just asking, don’t you think that goes way too far?” Seitz responded.

Rep. Talia Galonski (D-Akron) also took issue with that provision of the bill.

“I’m just so blown away here," Galonski said. "So are you telling us there is a litmus test of tyranny on former federal employees before they can become state employees? And exactly how would you work that litmus test? Is there some kind of exam?"

Taylor responded by saying under new federal rules, the ATF could go door-to-door in Ohio, using information tracked through receipts of sales of pistol braces, and talk gun owners into surrendering those items to them.

Taylor said that a federal agent could then be hired by state law enforcement after engaging in what Taylor views as a violation of a gun owner’s rights. And then courts could then determine whether that’s happened.

The interchange got a little testy when Galonski asked for clarification on Taylor’s explanation. A groan could be heard when Taylor responded to Galonski with “No, lady, I said…” Committee chair Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) admonished Taylor to use the word “representative” when addressing Galonski.

Other questions were raised about how the bill could affect the hiring of military veterans who were previously federal employees. And questions were raised about how courts and the legal system could reasonably apply this bill in determining future issues involving gun rights.

Representatives from Moms Demand Action and other groups that advocate for gun control testified they think this bill would make Ohio more dangerous, especially since some areas of the state are already battling with an increase in gun-related crimes.

The bill had been slated for a vote, but for now, it remains in the Ohio House Government Oversight Committee.

A handful of states already have a similar law on the books but those were enacted during President Obama's administration.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.