Ohio may become the first state to allow concealed-carry permit holders to wear firearms into gun-free zones if the state Senate approves the legislation following summer recess.

While Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Florida have considered allowing residents to carry in courthouses within the last year, Ohio’s HB 233, passed by the House Thursday, would represent a far greater expansion of concealed-carry permits, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

While permit holders could be forced to leave gun-free zones under the law, they would not be committing a crime simply by entering the premises while armed.

If permit holders refuse to leave, however, they can be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in prison and a $250 fine.

State prosecutors have criticized the bill, arguing there needs to be a distinction between residents who unwittingly bring their firearms into gun-free zones and those who intentionally do it. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. John Becker, pushed back, claiming the distinction is unnecessary because of how difficult it is for prosecutors to prove someone intentionally brought a gun into a gun-free zone in the first place, Cleveland.com reported.

Don Boyd of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce also claimed the bill would infringe on business-owners’ private property rights by preventing them from banning guns at there establishments, the website reported. The bill, however, only decriminalizes entering a gun-free zone; it does not prevent business owners from removing armed customers.

HB 233 was one of three concealed-carry bills considered in the House before the end of session. HB 142 and 201 would repeal the state requirement that permit holders tell police officers they are armed during a traffic stop and allow anyone over the age of 21 who is not federally prohibited to carry a weapon without a license. Neither made it to a final vote, however.

The Senate will consider HB 233 as soon as the fall legislative session begins after Labor Day.


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