As if the exotic animal ban wasn’t enough to show you how high the current administration and legislature can jerk their collective knees, they’ve outdone themselves with the latest bill that’s being fast-tracked to the governor: SB305, the Hidden Vehicle Compartment Bill. The bill, sponsored by Senator Jim Hughes (R, Columbus – District 16) was initially summarized as follows:
To prohibit designing, building, constructing, fabricating, modifying, or altering a vehicle to create or add a hidden compartment, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe the vehicle will be used to facilitate a crime, and to prohibit operating, possessing, or using a vehicle with a hidden compartment, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the vehicle has been or will be used to facilitate a crime.
Do you think that version was maybe just a tad open ended? And oh … yeah … they just left out one teen weeny little detail in the summary. If you are charged and found guilty of breaking this newly proposed law, guess what? You get a new title: FELON. But this couldn’t possibly affect you, right? I mean, it’s not like you might own a gun, store it in your vehicle out of sight, and have one of those CHL permits which over a quarter million Ohioans now have. Nah, this won’t affect you, you right-wing kook.
Well, thankfully, Buckeye Firearms Association (BFA) worked to have the poison for gun owners taken out of this bill . As stated on their website, BFA worked with Governor Kasich’s office to fix the problems. (By the way, we find it interesting that this bill appears to be driven from the top down. Why?)
When we made Governor John Kasich’s office aware of our concerns, his staff reached out to us to help change the bill to protect firearm rights. Substitute SB305, scheduled and adopted by the Judiciary committee today, reflects many of the changes we requested. These changes specifically exempt containers that are manufactured and/or advertised to be used to secure valuables, electronics or firearms in vehicles. Simultaneously, the bill was also re-focused to require the state to prove that hidden compartments in vehicles are used with the intent to transport controlled substances.
Ok, now let’s just back up a bit and talk about just what is the purpose of this bill? Why is it even being considered right now? That’s the $64,000 question to which we haven’t yet found anyone with a solid answer. The bill seems to be driven by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The best we’ve been able to learn is that they want to be able to charge someone who is trafficking drugs, but does not have the drugs on them at the time they are stopped. I.e., they want to be able detect “residue” of the drugs (in the container) and they also want to use the bill as a way of preventing drug traffickers from coming to Ohio in the first place. Of course, criminals always pay attention to state laws and they’ll of course check with their local authorities on hidden compartment laws before coming to Ohio. (Our tongue is now being removed from cheek.) Are you frightened yet? If not, think about this. What if you purchased a used car, which was previously owned by a drug dealer and had a hidden compartment in it? Or what if you kept some money in a hidden compartment in your car and that money had traces of drugs on it? Are you frightened now?
Now back to the bill itself. After BFA’s hard work on getting the improvements made we now have a bill summary as follows:
This is the summary of the version of the bill which passed out of the senate (with no floor debate) on May 3rd by a 30-2 margin with only senators Keith Faber (R, Celina – District 12) and Kris Jordan (R, Powell – District 19) opposing it. That’s interesting since these two senators are (perhaps arguably) among the most liberty-minded in the Ohio senate. What didn’t they like about the bill?
And that brings us to this week. Ohioans for Concealed Carry (OFCC) published a compelling video on Tuesday which demonstrates how currency obtained from common locations around Ohio such as a Wendy’s, ATMs, and the Statehouse Parking Garage ALL contained traces of drugs. In the video (embedded below), they show how the drug residue from money can be transferred to the inside of a container. Although this threat is not specific to gun owners, they demonstrate how the drug residue can be easily transferred to small safes or cases which contain guns or other valuables.
In OFCC’s blog posting documenting the house hearings for the bill, they highlight several concerns which were voiced by legislators to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, including:
- How can you prevent innocent people from being charged?
- Are you using existing law (ORC 2925.14) to charge people?
- How does OSP determine intent?
- Why do you need to insert a protection for commercially available compartments if intent is such a good shield?
- If a hidden compartment is found, is that a guarantee of arrest?Several committee members said that they did not want to lose their right to make or modify compartments, and other members expressed concern about innocent people being charged. [Ohio State Highway Patrol's] Lt. McGinty repeatedly said that the OSP needs to prove intent before an arrest, a statement that has been deemed incorrect by OFCC attorneys.
These are all excellent questions which OFCC and the legislators have raised, which need answers and the legislature needs to SLOW DOWN NOW! Additionally, Ryan Walters of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law stated after reviewing this bill that the Ohio legislature has a “noxious trend” of making violators of new laws into FELONS. The penalty of becoming a felon that this new law carries has many implications, not the least of which includes losing your 2nd amendment rights and your voting rights.
UPDATE. We learned early this morning that the bill has already passed out of committee and is likely headed to a floor vote TODAY. Your calls are needed IMMEDIATELY to your Ohio House Reps. Please ask them to vote NO on this bill. To look up the contact information for your rep, follow this link: http://www.house.state.oh.us/index.php?option=com_displaymembers&Itemid=73