November 02, 2021
By Mark Chesnut
Lawmakers in both Michigan and Ohio are considering measures that would protect Second Amendment rights during emergency declarations—provisions that were proven necessary in several states during last year’s COVID-19 pandemic “lockdowns.”
In Ohio, the state Senate passed Senate Bill 185 last week by a 23-to-7 vote. Sponsored by state Sen. Tim Schaffer, the measure declares firearm possession, transportation, carrying, commerce, and training range access, as well as hunting and fishing, to be life sustaining, essential activities. Under the bill, both local and state government authorities would be prohibited from infringing upon these rights under the guise of a declared emergence. Additionally, the legislation also provides legal recourse for Ohioans who have their rights infringed in such a way.
A companion bill to SB 185, House Bill 325 by state Rep. Scott Wiggam, also seeks to prevent state and local governments from infringing on Second Amendment rights and key hunting, fishing, and trapping activities during declared emergencies.
The bill is backed by the Buckeye Firearms Association, a group that leads grassroots efforts to defend and advance the right of more than 4 million Ohio citizens to own and use firearms for all legal activities.
“During an emergency is really when you need your rights the most,” Dean Reick, executive director of the BFM, said in an exclusive interview with Firearms News. “Those are actually bills that we originated. We came up with the idea for those bills last year when we saw what was going on in other states—guns stores being shut down, ranges being shut down, even hunting in some areas. We thought now is the time to pass something like this just to make sure in emergencies that isn’t used as an excuse.”
Meanwhile in Michigan, the House Government Oversight Committee is set to consider a similar emergency powers bill later this week. Such legislation is particularly important in that state, given some of the government’s actions last year.
Both House Bill 5187 and HB 5188 prohibit the state from restricting the lawful carrying of firearms and ammunition, seizing firearms or ammunition, restricting firearm businesses and shooting ranges, and restricting hunting and fishing activities during a declared state of emergency or as an emergency response to an epidemic.
Among other things, under the language of HB 5188, “An emergency order issued under this section must not do any of the following: Prohibit, suspend, or limit the business operations of any entity engaged in the lawful selling or servicing of a firearm or ammunition, including any components or accessories, ammunition reloading equipment and supplies, or personal weapons other than firearms,” or, “Prohibit, suspend, or limit the business operations of any indoor or outdoor shooting range, whether located on state lands or not, or any entity engaged in providing firearms safety, firearms training, firearms license qualification or requalification, firearms safety instructor courses, or any similar class, course or program.”
During last year’s emergency Covid declaration, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered closures of all nonessential business and purposefully referenced an outdated list of such industries, rather than the federal guidelines, which designated gun and ammo retailers as essential.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for more than 20 years.