Gov. Mike DeWine is not calling for a “red flag law” or universal gun purchase background checks, but instead wants to improve existing systems to address gun violence that has killed more than 16,000 people in Ohio since 2007.
At a press conference Monday, the Republican governor called for a system to let people voluntarily run a background check before they sell firearms to someone in a private party deal. He also wants to mandate more timely, complete information be sent to existing background databases so that people who cannot lawfully buy a gun aren’t able to clear a background check.
DeWine is also wants a clear path for police to enforce existing laws that allow seizure of firearms from people under a “weapons disability” because of mental illness, drug use or alcoholism. Additionally, the governor wants people with drug dependency or chronic alcoholism and are deemed to be dangerous to be held in hospitals for up to 72 hours — as is the process for people with mental illnesses who exhibit signs they’re a danger to themselves or others.
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“The STRONG Ohio bill will give hospitals and courts a better ability to help those who are legally declared to be a danger to themselves or others due to drug dependency or chronic alcoholism,” the DeWine administration said.
Current state law prohibits gun purchase and possession by people who have been formally adjudicated mentally ill, drug dependent or a chronic alcoholic.
Everytown for Gun Safety, the nation’s largest gun control group, said DeWine’s package falls short of what is needed and short of what he pledged in the days following the Aug. 4 mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District.
“The Safety Protection Order in this bill is not a Red Flag proposal or anything that even remotely resembles it,” the group said.
Red flag laws in 17 other states and the District of Columbia allow police or family to seek an emergency court order to remove guns from someone deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. A hearing with the gun owner typically follows in the weeks after the weapons seizure. But many gun rights groups believe this does not afford the gun owner due process because his weapons are seized before he has a chance to go to court.
Related: Do red flag laws work? Here is what we found in Indiana
Also, DeWine’s new background check system would be optional — not comprehensive or mandatory, Everytown noted.
DeWine is proposing a state-level background check system that private sellers could access for a small fee. To address privacy concerns of gun owners, the state would not require details on the types of guns being purchased or keep the background check information on file. A seller who conducts the voluntary check — and finds the buyer is not prohibited from owning firearms — would be immune from criminal liability related to the sale of the gun.
Days after the Aug. 4 shooting in Dayton, DeWine said “I’m asking the General Assembly to pass a law that requires background checks for all firearms sales in the state of Ohio, with the exception of gifts between family members and certain other limited uses.”
“We’re concerned that Gov. DeWine may be planning to walk away from central parts of the proposals he announced after the Dayton tragedy, including his call for background checks on all gun sales, with reasonable exceptions,” said Kristine Woodworth, volunteer chapter leader for the Ohio chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “The gaps in our gun laws are just as deadly today as they were in August. With or without the governor, we’ll keep fighting to close them, and the overwhelming majority of Ohioans are with us.”
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and about 60 elected officials and community leaders appeared at a press conference Monday, backing DeWine’s plan which also calls for:
— Doubling or tripling penalties for felonies committed with guns and imposing longer prison sentences for offenders who commit crimes with guns while prohibited from possessing firearms;
— Tripling the potential prison time for offenders who sell firearms to minors;
— Imposing prison terms of up to 8 years for straw purchasers — those who buy guns for people who can’t pass background checks;
Aspects of the 17-point plan will be in bills sponsored by state Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, according to the governor’s office.
The package faces a big uphill battle. House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, who has an A+ rating from the NRA, appeared in a campaign ad using a shotgun to blow apart a TV. House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, said she doubts that meaningful gun control will pass with the current set of lawmakers in power.
Related: Can DeWine get his gun proposals approved by lawmakers?
For the past 20 years, Ohio legislators have moved to expand gun rights, not restrict them.
Related: A look at significant gun law changes in Ohio
Ohio Gun statistics
Since 2007, more than 16,250 people have been killed by firearms in Ohio, including
* 10,024 suicides,
* 5,915 homicides,
* 184 accidents
* and 143 undetermined intent.
Source: Ohio Department of Health data warehouse