Gun bill modeled on ‘Strong Ohio’ has short time to gain support: What comes next

An attempt to revive some of the “Strong Ohio” proposals against gun violence, stalled in the General Assembly since 2019, faces a timeline that’s hard to meet.

State Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, announced Senate Bill 357 this week. He’s seeking legislative cosponsors, but the bill won’t get any formal consideration until lawmakers reconvene after the Nov. 8 general election.

Full House and Senate sessions aren’t scheduled until Nov. 16, and the last sessions for Dec. 21. The 134th General Assembly ends Dec. 31, and newly elected legislators will take office in early January to start the 135th session.

If SB 357 doesn’t pass before the end of this year, it would have to be refiled – under a different bill number – to be considered again.

The bill will also be competing for attention with many others, not just new proposals but bills that may have awaited action for nearly two years. Controversial bills that may take up much of legislators’ time include Senate consideration of a bill banning transgender women from participating in school sports on women’s teams, passed by the House in a last-minute move June 1; and further abortion restrictions, including a House bill making it a felony to perform an abortion without exceptions for rape, incest or the mother’s health.

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Dolan’s bill has five major provisions:

· A “red flag” law in which a judge can allow police to temporarily take the guns of someone suffering a “severe mental health condition,” at risk of harming themself or others.

· Requiring anyone age 18 to 21 who wants to buy a gun that can fire more than one shot before reloading to get a cosigner at least 25 years old for the purchase. Dolan said there is an exemption for young people in the military or police.

· A written statement from a county sheriff would be needed for private gun sales, except transfers between relatives, confirming the buyer is legally eligible to own guns.

· Improving background checks by requiring information on gun buyers to be entered in law enforcement databases by the end of the following business day.

· Using $85 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to help hospitals and colleges train more mental health workers, and another $90 million in ARPA funds to build mental health crisis centers for people who need treatment but are now being sent to jails.

Both incumbent Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Nan Whaley, former mayor of Dayton, indicated their approval of SB 357.

Its provisions resemble some in the “Strong Ohio” bill that DeWine introduced in 2019 after the mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District. DeWine’s press secretary noted that similarity, while Whaley called Dolan’s bill a “good first step.”

The Buckeye Firearms Association denounced the bill as “‘Strong Ohio’ by another name.” The group has already opposed its major provisions, BFA Executive Director Dean Rieck said.

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Once a bill is filed it’s assigned to committee, where the chairperson controls whether it will be taken up. If it is, a bill usually gets at least three hearings; controversial bills can get seven or eight.

If a bill passes committee it can be brought up for a vote by the full chamber. Should SB 357 pass the Senate, it would then go through the same process in the House.

Bills can see substantial changes during the committee process, and even during floor sessions. If one house passes a version that’s substantially different from the other house’s, either the changes would have to be accepted or a conference committee could iron out differences.

If a bill passes both houses and is signed by the governor, it usually takes effect 91 days after the signed version is filed with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

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