COLUMBUS, Ohio — A pair of Republican state lawmakers want to make sure state and local governments cannot take citizens’ guns or their access to them during a statewide emergency.

What You Need To Know

  • Sen. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, and Rep. Scott Wiggam, R-Wooster, introduced bills to keep gun stores open in state emergencies

  • The proposals allow Ohioans to carry their guns, go to shooting ranges as well as hunt and fish during a crisis

  • The Ohio Senate passed a similar bill last year, but it never made it through the Ohio House

Sen. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, and Rep. Scott Wiggam, R-Wooster, feel Ohioans need further protection of their Second Amendment rights in the worst of times. The duo introduced bills in the Ohio House and Senate on Tuesday banning state or local governments from closing gun stores in a state of emergency.​

"We've crafted the strongest bill of this type in this nation," said Schaffer during a news conference Tuesday.

The proposals also make sure Ohioans can carry their guns, go to shooting ranges as well as hunt and fish during a crisis.

"This bill defines these rights as essential and life sustaining," Schaffer said.

The Ohio Senate passed a similar bill last year, but it never made it through the Ohio House. As for this latest action, Gov. Mike DeWine's office pointed out gun shops stayed open during the pandemic.

“We were fortunate we had a governor and a legislature that would not utilize these powers to infringe our citizens Second Amendment rights but we do believe this is critical for the future," said Wiggam.

The National Rifle Association, which has helped other states introduce similar bills, and the Buckeye Firearms Association pointed to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer deeming gun stores non-essential at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for the urgency of the bills.

"This past year has reminded gun owners the Second Amendment is their best means to keeping themselves and their loved ones safe,” said John Weber with the NRA. “They have also been reminded that there are very powerful individuals and bodies that would like to abolish that right.”

Meanwhile, Toby Hoover, the founder of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, said the idea misses the point about what is essential.

"I think our lives and our safety is essential and there were a lot of businesses that were not able to operate,” said Hoover. “Certainly, firearms and guns shouldn't rise up there to be equal to our hospitals and our doctors.”

"They're pursuing a solution to a problem that don't exist," said Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Avondale.

Thomas said he does not understand why lawmakers, following the deadly shooting in Dayton in 2019 and the incidents around the state this past weekend, are not looking into other changes like universal background checks and red flag laws.

"The only direction we're going in is in the direction that we're trying to avoid, which is to keep the amount of accessibility to guns to just about anybody and everybody," said Thomas.

There has not been an appetite for the Republican-run legislature to pass any bills restricting access to guns even though DeWine has tried. Schaffer and Wiggam also said the timing of their bills is irrelevant.

"The answer should never be disarm good citizens,” Wiggam said. “The Individuals that are committing these crimes with these guns are not going to follow this law. They weren't doing it when they committed these crimes.”