COLUMBUS — As Ohio State University students grapple with the attack on campus, lawmakers are considering arming more of them in the future.
The proposal from Rep. Ron Maag, R-Lebanon, would allow individuals with licenses to carry concealed handguns on college campuses – if university officials approve the move. Those caught with a gun on campus would face a minor misdemeanor instead of a felony charge.
Lawmakers could vote on the expansion of concealed carry locations as soon as Wednesday.
Democrats have decried the “guns everywhere” bill, which passed the Ohio House of Representatives last year and has piqued the interest of senators in the final two weeks of their legislative year. The proposal would also allow firearms in child care centers, airport terminals and police departments — but not the off-limits areas.
The attack of 11 people on Ohio State University’s campus has heightened interest in arming students and staff. Student Abdul Razak Ali Artan rammed victims with a car and cut others with a butcher’s knife. Ohio State Officer Alan Horujko fatally shot Artan just one minute after the attack began.
Despite the quick response, gun advocates say students would feel safer with access to concealed firearms. Ohio is one of 18 states that prohibit concealed carry on college campuses. Kentucky and Indiana allow universities to decide whether to ban concealed carry.
“When I am at Ohio State, I cannot keep myself safe,” student Jonathan Beshears said in testimony before lawmakers Tuesday. “If someone attacks me with a butcher knife or an AK-47, I’m supposed to run away, throw things at them, or maybe hide under a desk and pray. Think about the terror you would experience if that was you.”
Still, opponents of the bill say there’s no need to increase the number of places where individuals can conceal guns. Lawmakers left child care centers, universities and police departments off the list for a reason, they say.
And more guns might have complicated the situation at Ohio State on Monday, said the Rev. Margaret Leidheiser-Stoddard, a deacon at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington. She was talking to lawmakers Tuesday as a member of the Ohio chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
“This officer showed up, he was able to identify the source of the threat quickly because there weren’t other people around with superfluous handguns,” she said. “If the law changes and people are whipping out guns in the middle of that situation, I think it might have turned out very differently.”
Buckeye Firearms Association President Jim Irvine contends police officers have enough training and sense to avoid shooting the wrong person.
“They don’t shoot every person with a gun," Irvine said. "If they did, they’d shoot every cop.”
The proposal would allow students and staff to protect themselves in dangerous situations, gun advocates say.
“The criminal was stopped by a gun," said Philip Mulivor, spokesman for Ohioans for Concealed Carry. "If that criminal had been stopped by a gun 45 seconds earlier, there could be even more preservation of life."
It’s not clear that Ohio State University officials would allow concealed handguns on campus even if Ohio lawmakers passed Maag’s bill. They have long opposed concealed weapons on campus. Former President E. Gordon Gee, in particular, would not allow firearms on campus.
So would Ohio State allow concealed carry even if a law passed? A university spokesman declined to comment.