Ohio college students may soon be allowed to carry concealed handguns on campus, after state lawmakers passed a bill late Thursday in the wake of the recent high-profile knife attack at Ohio State University.
The law, which passed both the House (68-25) and then Senate (22-8), was sent to Gov. John Kasich’s office to await his signature, Reuters reports. If signed, licensed gun owners will be allowed to carry guns on public university campuses, provided the institution’s Board of Trustees approves.
The bill comes less than two weeks after a former OSU student, 18-year-old Abdul Razak Ali Artan, injured 11 people when he plowed his car into a crowd before attacking some with a knife on Nov. 28. He was quickly shot dead by a police officer.
The swift passage of the bill is seen a response to the OSU attack and comes in a year when the debate over whether guns should be allowed on college campuses has reignited along partisan lines, with both sides arguing their stance is the best way to save lives.
Earlier this year, Texas enacted a concealed carry law on its college campuses, which went into effect on the 50th anniversary of a shooting spree by Charles Whitman at the University of Texas in 1966, which left more than a dozen people dead. California responded in opposite fashion, tightening its college concealed carry laws months after the murder-suicide of one of its professors.
Survivors of the 1966 University of Texas killing were critical of the new law earlier this year. "Guns do not have a place on campus," John "Artly" Fox, who as a 17-year-old student helped a pregnant woman who had been shot, told Reuters. "A university is a battleground of words and ideas, and not of weapons."
UCLA’s Students for Concealed Carry took a different tack after their incident. "If this premeditated shooting at UCLA calls any policies or laws into question, it is the policies and laws denying law-abiding professors the means to defend themselves where they're most vulnerable," the group said in a statement shared with The Christian Science Monitor at the time.
The new Ohio law will also allow guns in the public areas of airports and childcare facilities, provided they don’t explicitly ban them, although the House removed clauses that would have let people carry concealed weapons in public buildings such as city halls or libraries.
Democratic state Sen. Charleta Tavares of Columbus, who voted against the bill, said earlier this week that she stood with state law enforcement who were opposed to the measure.
"They are going to deal with the real life consequences of the passing of this bill," she said, as Reuters reports.
Republican state Sen. Bill Coley of Columbus rebuffed Senator Tavares's suggestion that such laws won't improve safety.
"There is no statistical evidence that this is not more safe," he said.