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Ohio AG's office plugs gap that let mentally incompetent people conceal carry firearms

Posted at 5:15 PM, Aug 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-04 17:15:34-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has “plugged the gap” which previously allowed some individuals who were declared mentally incompetent to obtain or keep a concealed-handgun license (CHL), according to a special report from the state.

According to the AG’s office, 41 people across 17 counties were deemed mentally incompetent and were disqualified from obtaining or keeping a CHL.

Of those 41 individuals, 35 of whom were declared mentally incompetent after they were issued a CHL.

According to the state, “under Ohio law, gun owners are required to obtain a license in order to carry a concealed handgun. Law-abiding Ohioans can seek a concealed handgun license (CHL) only after taking an eight-hour concealed-carry training class and passing a background check.”

Additionally, “from a public safety perspective, the two most important factors that prevent an applicant from obtaining a CHL are a felony conviction and an adjudication of mental incompetence. The same criteria, under both state and federal law, also prohibit the possession of a firearm.”

Here’s the process for anyone attempting to get a CHL, according to the state:

  • An application for a CHL is filed with a county sheriff.
  • The sheriff sends the applicant’s fingerprints to BCI, which compares them against the Ohio Criminal History
  • Repository to verify whether the applicant has a felony conviction.
  • The sheriff compares the applicant’s identifying information against the mental incompetence database, also managed by BCI, to verify whether the applicant has been deemed to be mentally incompetent.
  • The sheriff uses LEADS to check the applicant’s name in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to verify that, under federal law, the applicant qualifies to possess a firearm.
  • If the background check reveals no MI determination or felony conviction, the sheriff issues the applicant a CHL within 45 days of the application date.

There are around 700,000 residents in the state who hold a CHL.

“Although 41 people out of 700,000 represents only a fraction of a percentage point (.006%), even one wrongfully licensed CHL holder is too many,” the AG’s office said. “Ohio can and should do better, and the best way to do better is to address the system vulnerabilities as expediently as possible.”

There are two databases that are maintained that affect those holding or applying for a CHL license. The first is LEADS, a database managed by the Ohio Department of Public Safety that contains the names of individuals who currently hold a CHL.

The second database is maintained by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and contains a list of residents who have been determined to be mentally incompetent.

The AG’s office said the issue is that the LEADS database wasn’t automatically populated with the names of the individuals who are no longer allowed to hold a CHL.

Through a memorandum of understanding, the AG's Office said that it made a one-time request for the list of active CHL holders through the Ohio Department of Public Safety and then compared the list to the other database maintained by BCI with names of people who have been deemed mentally incompetent.

State officials called the dual database system maintained by the two separate agencies a “bureaucratic roadblock” that “directly contributed to the system’s vulnerabilities.”

Also, one of the issues that the AG’s office said it found with the system was that county sheriffs were not automatically notified when someone had a change in status and was listed as mentally incompetent.

Additionally, some courts and mental health providers in the state weren’t “promptly reporting” data to BCI, officials said, which caused further issues with the system.

The AG’s office said there is now an automated process that has been implemented that will allow BCI to make crosschecks of both systems.

“When a mentally incompetent adjudication is uncovered in the cross-checking process, BCI is committed to promptly notifying the appropriate sheriff by phone and in writing so that action can be taken on the CHL in question,” the AG’s office said.

The automatic process was made possible by the AG's office partnering with the Ohio Department of Public Safety to get up to date information regarding the state's CHL holders.

"As a repository of information, BCI is in the business of providing information and helping people identify criminals, making the bureau tailor-made for a primary role in the checks and balances of the CHL licensing process," the AG's office stated. "With a few additional improvements, Ohio could solidify its commitment to administering concealed carry lawfully and responsibly, perhaps setting the national standard."

CLICK HERE to read the Ohio AG's special report.

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