Ohio bill limits when police can seize weapons

Beagle backs bill that has domestic violence advocates upset.

State Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, is the sole co-sponsor on a bill introduced this week by Sen. Kris Jordan, R-Powell. The bill would prohibit police from seizing firearms from law-abiding citizens unless the officer “reasonably believes” that taking the weapon is necessary to protect the officer or someone else or the gun is evidence in a criminal investigation.

Police would have to return a seized weapon if the person isn’t arrested and the danger subsides, according to the bill.

Judy Strnad, executive director of the Artemis Center in Dayton, which advocates for domestic violence victims, said the bill is “very concerning to us” because of the danger it could pose to women in violent situations.

“Just because they’re not arrested doesn’t mean someone is going to be safe in that home,” she said. “We want police to be able to protect the victims who are being traumatized by domestic violence. Too many women are losing their lives to gunshot wounds in domestic violence situations.

“If police are called for domestic violence, we’d love for police to ask if there are weapons and if there are weapons, we’d love for the police to put them on at least a 24-hour hold.”

Domestic violence is the single greatest cause of injury to women and firearms are used in 58 percent of the domestic violence homicides in Montgomery County, according to Artemis.

Beagle said he signed onto Jordan’s bill because he has heard of cases where police seize guns and then the owners have difficulty retrieving them.

“It is not my intention to throttle law enforcement’s ability to control a situation,” said Beagle, who owns his grandfather’s rifle but no other firearms. “I’d like to give latitude to law enforcement to exercise judgment. I want a procedure on the back end to make sure people can get their weapons back.”

He added, “I was surprised that I was the only co-sponsor.”

Buckeye Firearms Association spokesman Jim Irvine said the group doesn’t have a position on Jordan’s bill but noted that police often take guns from law-abiding citizens and then retrieval can be costly.

“There is no point in spending $1,500 in legal fees to get a $1,000 gun back and the cities know that. There is a real problem that needs to get solved,” Irvine said.

Jay McDonald, president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, said he doesn’t expect the bill to go far in the General Assembly.

“This is just a headline grabber. It’s something for them to raise (political donation) money on. I don’t think this is a bill that attacks a real problem. I don’t think cops are seizing guns from law-abiding citizens,” McDonald said.

Jordan did not return multiple messages seeking comment for this story. In a news release he wrote: “In the last several years we have seen numerous attempts to deny Americans of their constitutionally protected right to own a firearm without fear of arbitrary seizure. In the event that our government misconstrues the Constitution in enforcing this right, we must be vigilant in safeguarding Ohioans.”

In July 2011, Jordan’s wife, Melissa Jordan, summoned Delaware County sheriff’s deputies to the couple’s home in a 911 call and alleged that her husband had pushed her around and had been drinking. She told deputies then that their relationship had started getting violent in the previous year or two. “I’m sick of being too scared to call but I don’t want anything to happen to him,” Melissa Jordan told officers. “…I can’t tell you how many things he’s busted and broken.”

When asked about weapons that night, Kris Jordan told deputies there were 12 to 15 guns in the home. “I believe in the Second Amendment. I value freedom. None are in my possession. None are close to me,” he said.

Kris Jordan told officers: “She got a little upset but…girls do that.”

Kris Jordan was not arrested or charged in the incident. Melissa Jordan, who is the Delaware County Recorder, declined to pursue a case. Both Jordans are NRA members, according to their official biographies.

Tipp City Police Chief Eric Burris said his department sometimes seizes weapons and holds them for 30 days for a cooling off period. “It is a touchy issue whenever we seize someone’s weapon, especially if there hasn’t been a crime committed,” Burris said. “Most people understand though that we’re doing it in the best interest of public safety and we just don’t want any harm to come to anyone.”

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