As Gov. Mike DeWine spoke at a vigil for shooting victims in Dayton’s Oregon District Sunday, a large section of the group chanted for him to “do something” about gun violence. On Tuesday, DeWine may announce that he'll try to do just that.
Nine victims and one shooter died and more than 30 people were injured in the attack that occurred around 1 a.m. near Ned Peppers Bar on East Fifth Street. The suspected shooter, Connor Betts, 24 of Bellbrook, was killed by police less than a minute after he opened fire.
DeWine will host a 9 a.m. press conference Tuesday at the Statehouse to discuss his proposals for addressing gun violence and mental health.
DeWine told the vigil crowd that he understood how they felt because he too had experienced the unexpected loss of his daughter 26 years ago Sunday.
“Fran and I, 26 years ago today, lost our daughter. We understand about sudden death. We understand how sad that is,” DeWine said. “So our heart goes out to the victims. Our heart goes out to the victims’ families. We pray for you.”
Before DeWine spoke, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley told the crowd that they cannot be “hopeless in the face of inaction in D.C. and Columbus.” She appeared to address the chants of “do something” after DeWine finished speaking.
“I love you all. Remember that this is a vigil tonight. This is a vigil for the people that we lost,” Whaley said. “There will be time to take action. But, let us come together as a community as we work to heal. We are here to heal tonight.”
Before departing the Ohio State Fair on Sunday for Dayton, DeWine told The Columbus Dispatch that it was a “horrible day for Ohio,” and that when it comes to potential changes in gun policy “everything’s on the table.”
“We’re open to discussion,” DeWine said. “This is a debate that certainly should take place.”
However, DeWine said, any gun reforms need to be constitutional, must be able to pass the Republican-dominated legislature, and be able to make an actual difference.
DeWine, who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in the 2018 governor’s race, has said he supports a “Red Flag Law” for Ohio. Red flag laws, also known as extreme protection orders, allow police or close family members to get a court order to remove firearms from someone who appears to be a danger to themselves or others.
State Rep. Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton, said that he's "sick of the dog and pony show" when it comes to the gun control debate.
Addressing gun violence, Strahorn said, will require a more "comprehensive" approach than has been considered in the past. Strahorn, who is himself a gun owner, said he would support some form of red flag laws but said legislation should include a composite of things, including addressing issues of poverty and education.
"I'm not prepared to say we need to ban everything or that we need to ban assault weapons," Strahorn said. "But, there's some reasonable things we can do."
Creating red flag laws in Ohio seems like "one of the most obvious things" to do, said State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering.
"People say it's not guns, it's people, it's mental illness. Well, it seems to me the red flag law is a nice intersection between the mental health argument and guns," Lehner said. "It's saying people who have mental health issues shouldn't be allowed to carry guns. It's pretty simple."
Legislation in the Statehouse may gain traction after the Dayton shooting, Lehner said. It's important, Lehner said, to take action sooner rather than later.
Lehner plans to support red flag proposals already introduced in the Statehouse. But, she said she will introduce her own bill if previously proposed legislation doesn't gain support.
"I'm always perplexed... any conversation about maybe it's time to do some law changes is met with: 'it's not the time now, we shouldn't do that today, we should take today to mourn," Lehner said. "Let's talk about it right now and quit putting it off."
Previous legislation sponsored by then-state Rep. Mike Henne,R-Clayton, would have made several changes to Ohio revised code, including creating red flag laws. Though it had the support of then-Gov. John Kasich the bill never made it to his desk.
While Lehner supports proposals to create red flag laws, State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, is hesitant to support them.
Antani takes issue with the fact that under red flag laws, a court can take away someone's guns without first having a hearing. That "due process" needs to happen first, before someone's firearms are confiscated, Antani said.
"I think obviously there has been and will continue to be a lot of discussion around these issues," Antani said. "I think that the concept in general, if it protects due process, might work but protecting the due process is very important."
Antani said he would be open to law changes that would address mental health and violence. But, he said that more needs to be known before he can make a determination about exactly what type of legislation he would support.
A dozen firearms bills are pending in the Ohio General Assembly -- evenly split between expanding gun rights and restricting them, according to the Buckeye Firearms Association, a pro-gun group. One bill calls for allowing people to carry concealed weapons without permits, background checks or training.
Ohioans for Gun Safety is currently collecting signatures for a proposed law that would mandate background checks on nearly all gun sales, including those between private parties.
The group needs to gather 132,887 valid signatures from registered voters to present the citizen-initiated statute to the Ohio General Assembly. If lawmakers decline to adopt it, the group then must collect another 132,887 signatures to put the issue on the statewide ballot.
State Sen. Stephen Huffman, R-Tipp City, said his caucus needs to discuss some of the specific ideas that have come up.
"We need to take a look at the whole red flag laws and the background checking system," Huffman said. "I think there's a lot of possibilities.
Jeremy Pelzer with Advance Ohio Media contributed to this report.
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