Gun laws: Where local Statehouse candidates stand

The battle over gun laws is fought at the Ohio Statehouse every year. Those for and against legislation routinely lobby lawmakers, pack hearing rooms and hold rallies, such as this demonstration in favor of the right to openly carry firearms in Ohio. LAURA BISCHOFF/STAFF
The battle over gun laws is fought at the Ohio Statehouse every year. Those for and against legislation routinely lobby lawmakers, pack hearing rooms and hold rallies, such as this demonstration in favor of the right to openly carry firearms in Ohio. LAURA BISCHOFF/STAFF

EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Ohio primary election was moved from March 17. The deadline to vote in the Ohio primary election is April 28. Voters must request an absentee ballot from their county’s board of election if they have not already voted. All absentee ballots mailed in must have a postmark of April 27 to be counted, and all ballots must be received by the boards by May 8 to be counted. Voters can drop off the ballots to board offices in person by 7:30 p.m. April 28. In-person voting will be offered on April 28, but will only occur at boards of elections early voting center and only be available for people with disabilities who require in-person voting and people who do not have a home mailing address. Local election officials say voters need to make sure they include all the required information on absentee ballot request forms and pay close attention to unsolicited request forms they get in the mail. State law allows ballots to be scanned but they cannot be tabulated until 7:30 p.m. April 28.

The Ohio Statehouse is ground zero for gun laws, which have become a major issue in the 2020 elections for voters and legislative candidates — especially in the wake of the Aug. 4 mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District that killed nine people and led to shouts of “Do Something” at a vigil.

The Dayton Daily News polled legislative candidates on where they stand on key gun issues and examined how some of their controversial statements on guns are coming into play in hotly contested races.

After the February 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people, Miamisburg Republican state Rep. Niraj Antani said law abiding 18-year-olds should be allowed to carry long guns to high school. Two years later, that statement contributed to state Sen. Peggy Lehner’s decision to back Rachel Selby — not Antani — to replace her in the Ohio Senate 6th District seat. Lehner, who is barred by term limits from re-election, believes Selby’s gun positions are more in line with Lehner’s call for gun restrictions.

Antani, Selby and Greg Robinson — all NRA members — are in a three-way GOP primary while Mark Fogel and Albert Griggs Jr. are running in the Democratic primary. Fogel said if he goes up against Antani, he plans to make gun issues, and Antani’s March 2018 statement, a centerpiece of his campaign.

READ MORE: Mike DeWine lays out plans to address gun violence

More than two dozen bills addressing firearms are pending now — from criminal background checks and training for carrying concealed weapons regulations to when a gun could be seized. We asked each candidate their views on the same gun issues, including “red flag” and “stand your ground” laws.

Red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders, allow police or family members to seek a court order to remove weapons from someone deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. Stand your ground laws people to use deadly force in public places in self-defense and would remove Ohio’s current duty to retreat from danger.

Gov. Mike DeWine wants lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 221, which would expand the use of “pink slips” to involuntarily hospitalize people with mental health disorders who also are deemed to be a danger, create a voluntary background system for private party gun sales, and expand penalties for gun crimes.

Gun violence killed 1,502 people across Ohio last year, including 220 in the Dayton-Springfield area, according to state data. The majority of these deaths are suicides.

Last week, Ohioans began casting early ballots for party nominations in all 99 state House seats and half of the 33 state Senate seats, including in several hotly contested primaries for local legislative districts. Election Day is March 17.

Here’s what the candidates in contested local races told us about their stances on gun legislation.

RELATED: Dayton mayor takes aim at gun reforms

Senate 6th

This is a three-way GOP primary and a two-way Democratic primary for a seat now held by state Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, who is term-limited. The district covers parts of Montgomery County, including suburbs to the south and north of Dayton.

Niraj Antani, a Republican state representative from Miamisburg, holds an A+ rating and endorsement from the Buckeye Firearms Association. He is undecided on DeWine's Strong Ohio plan, though he is endorsed by DeWine for the Senate seat. Antani opposes bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, as well as red flag laws. He favors enacting a stand your ground law and supports eliminating training and background checks for people who want to carry concealed weapons.

Greg Robinson, a Republican business owner, favors DeWine's Strong Ohio bill, universal background checks for gun purchases and red flag laws. He also supports stand your ground and eliminating training and background checks for concealed weapons carriers. He opposes bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

The Buckeye Firearms Association does not have a rating for Robinson or Selby because they didn’t respond to the organization’s survey, have no public voting record and the association couldn’t find relevant information on their positions.

Rachel Selby, a Republican who works as a fundraiser for Dayton Children's Hospital, supports DeWine's Strong Ohio bill and universal background checks. Selby opposes stand your ground, and eliminating training and background checks for people who want to carry concealed weapons. She said she favors requiring licensing ownership of assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

Mark Fogel, a Democrat and Air Force veteran who works as a recruiter for General Electric, opposes DeWine's Strong Ohio bill, saying it is too weak. He favors universal background checks, red flag laws, bans on bump stocks and limits on high capacity magazines. He said he is open to considering a ban on assault weapons. Fogel opposes stand your ground, and eliminating training and background checks for people who want to carry concealed weapons.

Albert Griggs Jr., a Democrat and a retired police officer, is leaning against DeWine's Strong Ohio bill. He favors universal background checks, red flag laws, and bans on high capacity magazines and bump stocks. He opposes a ban on assault-style weapons, stand your ground, and eliminating training and background checks for people who want to carry concealed weapons.

Neither Fogel nor Griggs are NRA members or received a rating from the Buckeye Firearms Association.

House 39th 

Three Democrats are vying for the party nomination for a seat currently held by state Rep. Fred Strahorn of Dayton, who is term-limited. The district includes parts of Dayton and Jefferson Twp. The winner will face Republican John Ferrell Mullins III.

Willis Blackshear Jr., who works for the Montgomery County auditor's office, generally favors gun restrictions, including red flag laws, universal background checks, and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. He opposes stand your ground, and eliminating training and background checks for people who want to carry concealed weapons. He supports DeWine's Strong Ohio plan, but says it doesn't go far enough.

Walter Hickman Jr., a retired Dayton city worker who ran against Strahorn in the 2018 primary, favors red flag laws that provide due process, and bans on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. He opposes DeWine's Strong Ohio plan, stand your ground, and eliminating training and background checks for those who want to carry concealed weapons.

Jo'el Thomas Jones, who is the Trotwood City Council clerk and works for ESS Human Resources, said she opposes eliminating training and background checks for people who want to carry concealed weapons. She supports current self-defense law but didn't specify if she favors or opposes stand your ground. She favors red flag laws under certain circumstances and universal background checks. While she opposes assault weapons bans, she favors bans on high capacity magazines. Jones said she generally favor's DeWine's plan but said it could be improved.

Blackshear and Jones are not NRA members or rated by the Buckeye Firearms Association. Hickman is a former NRA member and endorsed by the BFA.

House 42nd 

Jake Stubbs, a Republican who serves as a German Twp. trustee, did not respond to the Dayton Daily News survey.

Tom Young, a Centerville Republican who is a financial advisor for UBS Financial Services, did not respond to the Dayton Daily News survey.

House 73rd 

Two Republicans are running for the seat currently held by Republican Rick Perales. The district includes western Greene County. The GOP winner will face off against Democrat Kim McCarthy in November.

John Broughton, a veteran and former Beavercreek city councilman, said he opposes eliminating training and background checks for people carrying concealed weapons but favors stand your ground. He opposes red flag laws, universal background checks, and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. He said he is undecided on DeWine's Strong Ohio plan.

Brian Lampton, owner of an insurance and financial services agency, favors stand your ground. He opposes red flag laws, universal background checks, bans on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons, and DeWine's Strong Ohio plan. Lampton did not specify if he favors or opposes eliminating training and background checks for concealed weapons carriers.

Broughton and Lampton both have A ratings from the Buckeye Firearms Association, which endorsed neither candidate. Lampton is an NRA member; Broughton is not.