Openly Carrying Gun Not A Crime


Staff member
In the political tussle over Ohio's concealed-carry gun law, one fact seems to have been overlooked by many: You never needed a permit to carry a gun in public, and you still don't --- you just can't conceal it.

As long as you haven't been convicted of a felony, if you want to wear a pistol on your belt or walk around town carrying a shotgun, Ohio has no law against it.

But if you do, don't be surprised if you get some unwanted attention from police officers.
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Philip Turner, 30, discovered that in July when he walked from his Hilliard apartment to his parked truck wearing a gun on his belt. At the time, Turner worked protecting banks' ATMs as they were serviced and delivering diamonds to jewelry stores.

An undercover agent with the Ohio Investigative Unit -- the police agency that enforces the state's alcohol, tobacco and food-stamp laws -- saw the gun and quickly ordered him against his truck with his hands on his head.

"He came up and treated me like a felon for absolutely no reason at all," Turner said. "There wasn't even a suspicious action on my part to warrant him taking this action against me. Had I been out waving a gun around the parking lot, (then) yeah."

After being detained for about 30 minutes, and after Hilliard police arrived at the agent's request, Turner was released without charges. An internal investigation that concluded this week found that neither Agent Timothy Gales, who had stopped Turner, nor his partner, Betty Ford, did anything wrong.

However, it also revealed that Gales did not know it was legal for Turner to carry a gun openly, said Lindsay Komlanc, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety. As a result, more than 100 agents in the unit are to attend a mandatory refresher course on Ohio's gun laws over the next couple of months, she said.

They might be surprised at what's legal.

The investigation report said that, weeks before Turner was stopped, agents stopped a 13- or 14-year-old boy who was carrying a rifle in public. They called his mother, who retrieved the gun. Then they called a supervisor to figure out what charge to file against the boy.

The answer: nothing. The supervisor advised them that "it was their right to carry a gun openly and they were allowed to do this," according to the report.

Ohio law says you can't sell a gun to people younger than 18 or provide them with one, except for "hunting, sporting or educational purposes," said Lt. Shawn Davis of the State Highway Patrol. A child must take a gun-safety course before going hunting, Davis added.

It's not illegal "that we see" for a juvenile of any age to carry a gun in public, said Jennifer Brindisi, a spokeswoman for the Ohio attorney general's office.

Turner, who has a license to carry a concealed gun, said he was carrying his gun openly "because it's my right. I choose to exercise my right to protect myself." He doesn't know whether the two agents pulled their guns; he was instructed not to face them. The agents told investigators they didn't.

But it wouldn't be unreasonable for officers to draw their guns until they know what the situation is, said Sgt. Rich Weiner of the Columbus Police Division.

"The first thing we need to address: This man has a gun," Weiner said. "We're going to pull our guns.

"As a police officer, we also have the right to protect ourselves and protect the public, so we do have the right to disarm him momentarily. Now everybody is a little bit more at ease. We don't have a potential weapon being used against an officer or anybody else."

If your open display of a firearm is causing panic, you could be charged with inducing panic, Weiner said. If you carry it onto private property, you could be charged with trespassing, he said.

Komlanc of Public Safety wouldn't say why the agents and a police dive team were at Turner's apartment complex last July because the case is continuing.

By Bill Bush

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