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Ohio bill aims to incentivize safe gun storage with sales tax waiver

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(OHIO) — Legislation that incentivizes gun owners in Ohio to secure their weapons is getting major support from gun control advocates and gun rights groups alike.

One of the bill’s sponsors told ABC News that he hopes that it can spur a bigger discussion both in the state and country on safe storage and safety protections for firearms.

Ohio’s HB 186, which was introduced in the state’s House of Representatives in May, would waive the state’s 5.75% sales and use tax on firearm safety devices.

State Rep. Darnell T. Brewer, who co-sponsored the bill, told ABC News that sales tax exemption would apply to numerous products already being sold in firearm shops from as low as a $30 gun lock to as high as $800 for storage lockers with biometric locks.

“It’s a little nudge and urge to gun owners to lock up and secure their guns,” he said.

HB 186 defines a “firearm safety device” as “A device that, when installed on a firearm, is designed to prevent the firearm from being operated without first deactivating the device,” and “A gun safe, gun case, lockbox, or other device that is designed to prevent access to a firearm unless an individual uses a key, a combination, biometric data, or other similar means.”

Brewer, who is not a gun owner, said that he’s been looking to find common sense solutions to gun violence and one of the most common calls he has gotten from constituents, law enforcement, non-profits and other groups is that guns are left unsecured.

That has led not only to more gun thefts, which are used in shootings, but also accidental shootings and suicides, according to Brewer.

“If these devices had been safely stored, or if these owners had a safety device, these instances wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

The representative said he has supported state bills in the past that mandated safe storage, including one that was introduced this session that mandates trigger locks for firearm sales, but none of them passed due to opposition from gun rights groups who contended it violated their second amendment rights.

That’s when Brewer said he and other leaders decided to think about a different approach.

The representative said it was hard to argue against a bill that focused on the costs of safe storage,

“What we are saying is ‘Give [gun buyers] the opportunity to have a sales tax free device so they can buy it with less hassle,'” Brewer said.

Brewer’s intentions have already sparked interest in both gun rights supporters and gun control supporters.

Representatives from the Ohio-based Buckeye Firearms Association, National Rifle Association, Moms Demand Action and Sandy Hook Promise all provided testimony in support of the bill during a Sept. 26 hearing in the Ways and Means committee hearing.

“Whether it’s a mass shooting, a suicide, an unintentional shooting, or a homicide, we must collectively do something as a society to encourage people to safely secure their firearms. HB186 is something that will encourage people to do this, and maybe something we can all agree on that makes sense,” Michelle Lee Heym, a Moms Demand Action volunteer, testified.

“This straightforward legislation does not include any mandates and recognizes that the government should not be placing additional cost barriers on citizens who wish to exercise their Second Amendment rights, and who wish to safely store their firearms,” John Webber, an NRA representative, said in his testimony.

Paul Kemp, the co-founder of the grassroots group Gun Owners for Responsible Gun Ownership, told ABC News he was surprised that the gun rights groups have expressed support for the Ohio bill.

“I suspect one of the reasons they would support is that it provides business opportunities for firearms dealers,” he said. “They’re not going to the point of supporting a mandate outright.”

Kemp, who helped push Oregon’s safe storage law two years ago, said HB 186 is a good start to get more guns safely stored, but more importantly, it will spark a bigger conversation about the benefits of safe storage.

Brewer said that’s his hope for the bill as it moves forward.

There is no date yet as to when it will be voted in the committee and advanced to the full house, but the representative said the conversation that the bill has started will get more people to think about storing their weapons.

“We can find a solution. If the NRA and Moms Demand Action agree on this bill, what else can they agree on? There are many common sense solutions we can agree to,” he said.

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