11/15/2011 10:34 am ET Updated Jan 15, 2012

Carrying concealed weapons just keeps getting easier

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In Ohio, it is now OK to possess a hidden, loaded handgun in cars and bars, public parks and parking lots. Gun owners have broad discretion in using deadly force against burglars and car thieves. A 12-hour gun training course is still needed to get a concealed-carry permit, one of the stiffest requirements in the country. But in 2008, a written test to renew a concealed-carry license was abolished as over-regulation.

Today, seven years after the Buckeye State first allowed citizens to carry concealed weapons, more than a quarter-million Ohioans have concealed carry permits. People debate the impact, although the fact that the identity of the permit holders is off limits to the general public makes that tough. A law giving reporters access to the information was scaled back after gun rights' groups complained that the press had abused the privilege.

The sweeping changes are part of a little-known but dramatic expansion of user-friendly gun laws across the country. Rough estimates put the number of concealed carry permit holders at between 4 and 7 million nationwide.

In just the past three years, 22 states have weakened or eliminated laws regulating the possession of concealed weapons, according to the Legal Community Against Violence, a public-interest law firm in San Francisco that supports more restrictive gun laws.

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