By Gary Evens

NOTE: This article discusses Ohio CCW training requirements, but there is food for thought here regardless of what state you live in. There can be a big difference between what a state requires for training and what amount of training you should voluntarily seek out to be a confident and capable gun owner. Our opinion is that state requirements for concealed carry licensing should be as low as possible while your personal standards for training should be as high as possible.

Ohio has required individuals that want to obtain a concealed handgun license to complete a minimum of 12 hours of training, but that is about to change. As I’ve previously recorded, the mandatory topics Ohio requires include being able to:

  • Name, explain, and demonstrate the rules for safe handling of a handgun and proper storage practices for handguns and ammunition;
  • Demonstrate and explain how to handle ammunition in a safe manner;
  • Demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary to shoot a handgun in a safe manner;
  • Demonstrate proper gun handling.

Notice that the requirements all center around firearms safety. The ability to use a handgun for self-defense is not a requirement to obtain an Ohio concealed carry license.

There have been complaints about Ohio’s training requirements. Some claim that 12 hours is much too long. Others claim that there should be no training required at all because “keeping and bearing”
a firearm is a right guaranteed in the U.S. and Ohio constitutions. On March 23, the requirement will be reduced to 8 hours.

The issue of how much training should be required to obtain a concealed carry license was hotly debated prior to enacting Ohio’s initial concealed carry law over 10 years ago. Those that were not really in favor of granting citizens the right to carry a concealed firearm, including some law enforcement officials, argued the training requirement should be 40 hours, the same amount of time police officers were required to obtain. (Their goal was to imposed as many restrictions as possible to limit the number of people that could obtain a license.) Others argued that little or no training should be required. The compromise was made at that time requiring 12 hours of training.

The number of hours of training that should be required was part of the debate surrounding HB 203 in the Ohio legislature. While many will agree that 12 hours is probably too much, there wasn’t a lot of agreement on what the right amount of training is. Some say 8 hours, others say less. The House, which passed HB 203 by a vote of 63-27, set the new limit at 4 hours. The Ohio Senate did not agree, instead setting the minimum limit at 8 hours when it passed HB 234, the consolidated bill that included the provisions of several separate firearms bills.

Jim Irvine from the Buckeye Firearms Association recently addressed this issue in an article posted on the association’s website.

Jim points out that while carrying a firearm is a constitutionally-protected right, carrying a firearm “concealed”
has been deemed a privilege, not a right, and thus limitations can be imposed on individuals wishing to have that privilege. Because it is in the public’s best interest to ensure people that have been granted the privilege to carry a concealed firearm do so in a safe and responsible manner, training requirements have been imposed. The question is, how much training is needed to enable individuals to carry a concealed firearm in a safe and responsible manner?

Ohio is not alone in trying to deal with the question of how much training should be required for individuals to be issued a concealed carry license. Most states require some training — normally an NRA or hunter education course of some sort. Eight states do not require any training at all. (This causes a “reciprocity”
issue because Ohio law requires the citizens of other states to have an equivalent amount of training as Ohio citizens are required to obtain in order to have the other state’s licenses recognized.) Ohio is one of only six states that requires more than 8 hours of training to qualify for a concealed carry license — but this will be changing in just a few months.

States like California, Illinois, and Maryland require 16 hours of training; New Mexico requires 15 hours; and Texas requires 10-15 hours of training.

Most Ohio firearms instructors would agree that 12 hours is just too long a time for a class and students’
attention span drops off significantly before the end. To deal with this, some instructors divide the 12 hours over multiple days, but many students find this inconvenient.

I agree that requiring a minimum of 12 hours of training is too much. That is not to say that people don’t need this much training however. Over the few hundred students that I have taught, probably about 40% come into the class with a good familiarity with firearms. They certainly don’t need 12 hours of training to acquire the knowledge the state requires for them to be issued a concealed carry license. Another 25% or so come into the class with little or no experience with firearms. While some are “quick studies”
and are able to grasp the concepts and skills quickly, others take longer to comprehend the material presented to them during the class. They can certainly use the 12 hours (and more) if their attention span would last that long. The remaining 35% or so fall somewhere in between these other two groups. They have some experience and skills, but realize there is more to learn.

I certainly feel that 4 hours is enough time to teach basic firearms safety, nomenclature, handling, and storage. These are the basic things Ohio requires concealed carry holders to know. However, 4 hours is not enough time if individuals need to understand Ohio’s firearms laws — especially as they relate to concealed carry and what constitutes self-defense. That takes an additional couple of hours in the classroom.

Range time will vary. Some students can demonstrate their shooting proficiency and safe gun handling in just a few rounds and be finished in about 15 minutes. Others, especially those with little or no shooting experience coming into the class, require much more time on the range to become comfortable with handling and shooting a firearm. Ohio has required, and will continue to do so, 2 hours of “range training.” Typically this consists of live fire and gun handling practice, although only the “live fire”
portion must actually be conducted on a firing range.

Still more time would be required to go over how to select a handgun for self-defense/concealed carry and to cover the various methods for carrying a concealed handgun.

So, we are at about 8-10 hours of training depending on the abilities of the student when they come into the class. As an instructor I certainly don’t want to issue a course completion certificate to someone that I don’t feel is ready for the responsibilities that come with carrying a concealed handgun. Unfortunately, most students will only be interested in taking the minimum amount of training that Ohio requires to be issued a concealed carry license.

Ideally, when Ohio’s minimum training requirements change, courses will be structured to cover the material up front that everyone needs so those students that are already proficient can finish quickly and leave. Those that require additional training would have to stay longer before they receive their course completion certificates. Doing so would probably require a format involving multiple instructors teaching different portions of the course in a way that accommodates students with different skills and so the entire class isn’t held up by students that need more training in one particular aspect.

One solution might be to use a concept the NRA is developing and will implement in the next couple of years. This would make the NRA Basic Pistol course an on-line training class that individuals can take at their own pace. Students would then have to go to an NRA instructor to receive the “hands-on”
training that cannot be done virtually. Only then would students be issued a course completion certificate that can be used to demonstrate competency for the purposes of obtaining an Ohio concealed carry license. The cost of this format would probably be far greater than what it currently costs to take this course from an instructor. (I understand the NRA anticipates it would cost an individual $100-$125 to take the on-line portion of the class and then the instructor would probably charge an additional $50 to $100 for the hands-on portion. After all, instructors do have to earn enough to cover the cost of the classroom, firing range, the materials they provide to students, insurance, and their teaching time.) Only time will tell how it all shakes out.

In the meantime, my advice to you is to not skimp on your firearms training. Training is good, more training is better.

Gary Evens is an NRA-Certified Instructor and Range Safety Officer.