2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

"I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians."
- George Mason (father of the Bill of Rights and The Virginia Declaration of Rights)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Does a proposed Ohio law outlawing "hidden compartments" target CCW holders?

Recently here in the Buckeye state there has been a stir about a proposed bill sponsored by State Senator Jim Hughes (R-Columbus).  Senate Bill 305 (you can read it here) is aimed at helping to target the transportation of illegal drugs here in Ohio by making it illegal to have any type of hidden compartment installed on your vehicle that might be capable of concealing drugs from law enforcement officials.  What it may do in some peoples interpretation is to make the transport or storage of firearms in lock boxes or other such containers illegal.  Take my lock box that is in my truck and used to secure my CCW pistol while I am not using it.

Illegal?

In the context as it is currently written, the law forbids


(c) Any compartment, space, box, or other closed container that is added or attached to existing compartments, spaces, boxes, or closed containers integrated or attached to a vehicle.

That box seems to fit in that description as it is attached to the vehicle via a steel cable to the bolted chassis of my seat to prevent its easy removal if the truck is broken into or stolen.

Some people would have you believe that this is the first step in a process to erode our basic rights as Ohioans, or so the comments and posts across the internet would have you believe.  In truth, while I think the law as written could be a horrible tool used by certain jurisdictions to enforce their anti-gun agenda by local interpretation of it (I am looking at you Cleveland and the surrounding People Republic of Cuyahoga), I do not believe the bill is "evil" as written.

The bill's sponsor, Senator Hughes has a strong pro-gun record and recently voted to pass Ohio's expanded CCW restaurant and vehicle carry law.  He carries an "A" rating by the NRA.  It doesn't seem logical that a legislator with this background would introduce such a bill with that intent.  What I think we have here is a simple case of poorly worded first draft that can be fixed before being passed.

I am asking anyone in Ohio that may be affected by this law to take a few minutes and contact Senator Hughes with our concerns.  His email address and office phone number is located in the link in the first paragraph.  My letter as written is as follows, feel free to copy it or to be as brief as you need to be to get your point across...I can be one long winded SOB when the mood hits me...

Dear Senator Hughes, 
I am writing you in regards to SB 305, which you recently sponsored and entered into the legislative process.  I would first like to commend you for taking a stand on the war on drugs here in Ohio.  I feel that by cracking down on the trafficking of drugs in out state that the overall use will decline as well.
However, as I am sure you have realized by now, many of us in the 2nd Amendment arena are worried about certain aspects of the bill as written as they pertain to the legal transportation and storage of firearms in our vehicles under current state law.  We fear interpretation of the law as currently written may be used by some entities to charge otherwise law abiding and licensed CHL holders with crimes for nothing more than exercising their rights under current Ohio law.  In particular the following section I.2(c) as it pertains to the description of a "hidden compartment" under the proposed law:
 Any compartment, space, box, or other closed container that is added or attached to existing compartments, spaces, boxes, or closed containers integrated or attached to a vehicle.
Under my interpretation of this passage (and apparently many others by reactions on the internet) the lock box I currently have stored in the center storage compartment under the seat of my 2008 GMC Sierra would be considered one of these prohibited spaces (picture attached).
 I use this box to secure my firearm while I am at work and it is left in my truck in the parking lot.  I have the gun disabled by a key safety, locked in this box which is secured to the truck's seat frame via a cable, in the locked storage space in the truck, which itself is logically locked.  In this way I try and assure that if my vehicle would be stolen that the weapon could not easily be used for any criminal purpose.  The lock box itself is a very large part in this chain of protection.   
May I suggest that the above quoted portion of the bill be amended to include some additional wording at the end to the effect as such..
 (c) Any compartment, space, box, or other closed container that is added or attached to existing compartments, spaces, boxes, or closed containers integrated or attached to a vehicle in such a manner as to be designed to avoid detection under scrutiny of inspection.
I feel that this would remove any ambiguity from the distinction of compartments used for the transportation of illegal substances and those used for otherwise legal uses, such as transporting licensed firearms.  
In addition may I also suggest that an additional portion be added that makes the disclosure of any such compartments to law enforcement officials when interacting in the performance of their duties render those compartments void of enforcement under the statute of this law.  This would allow people to carry firearms in containers under their seats for security and not worry about any issues if stopped for a traffic violation.  This would coincide with the duty to notify aspect of the existing law as it applies to the transport of firearms in vehicles.
I know that you are a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment as both your high standing with the NRA as reflected in your rating with them and past voting record on 2nd Amendment issues in our state.  I am sure that this issue was merely an oversight in its initial drafting and can be easily rectified to protect our rights while still maintaining the original intent of the bill as envisioned into law. 
As a matter of note, I am a 30 year resident of Ohio, a retired member of the Ohio Army National Guard and a licensed CHL holder in this state.   
Your kind attention to this matter would be greatly appreciated.



4 comments:

Brian said...

I have to totally disagree with you here.

Private property is just that private. If the Police have cause and a warrant to search a vehicle it is up to them to do a thorough job. At the end of the day this law just results in 1 more BS charge that can be thrown on top of the rest of the pile. If they find a box and nothing is in it they still can charge and get a conviction, thereby insuring that the individual in question is on the books. Thus giving them reason to stop and search them in the future because they are already a criminal.

Criminals won't care and citizens who live in crime areas and have a reason to have boxes in their cars will become criminals by default.

I think your guy just wants to say he is doing something about drugs.

Huey said...

Thanks for the comment...re-read the portion of my letter to him that states "In addition may I also suggest that an additional portion be added that makes the disclosure of any such compartments to law enforcement officials when interacting in the performance of their duties render those compartments void of enforcement under the statute of this law" hence if you are subject to such search and confess to the existence of such a "hidden compartment" (and for the sake of argument here I am talking about a lock box under a seat or in a glove box and not a fuel tank with a false bottom)and nothing is in it you would be free from charges.

To begin with I cannot imagine how they would apply this charge without having probable cause to search the vehicle to begin in the first place. We have a seat belt law in effect but I have not heard of it being a primary offense as of yet.

I do respect your point though, thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

My issue with Jim Hughes' law is a little different from that of most posters so far.

I'm a trap shooter, sporting clay shooter and occasionally shoot skeet. When traveling to a trap shoot, I like to stop and have breakfast at Bob Evans, leaving my Suburban in the parking lot. If my guns are in the front, a smash and grab thief could easily bust a window, and grab my guns.

If my shotguns are in the rear, a thief will just pop the lock on the rear door and grab my guns. But, in all my vehicles, I've put a compartment with a hidden electrical switch to hid my guns from general smash and grab thieves.

Imagine you are at a sporting clays course with your extra shotgun in the trunk of your car and you are just over the hill shooting station 6 and out of sight of your car. A thief pops your trunk and your guns are gone.

Imagine now that I am pulled over because I have a tail light bulb out; a zealous anti-gun police officer armed with SB305, discovers my shotguns are in a hidden compartment (so as to discourage or slow thieves). I'm going to be in big trouble with that officer and the courts.

This law scares the hell out of me!

Jim Forsbach
New Albany, Ohio

Huey said...

Sorry a bit late in responding...

Well, that is a pickle for you... As I point out I would suggest that part of the law includes exemption from prosecution if you disclose the existence of compartments to officers before the search...