Review: No widespread changes in state gun laws after shootings

Associated Press

Shortly after last year’s shooting massacre on the Las Vegas strip, Ohio Gov. John Kasich convened a panel to explore possible reforms to state gun laws.

A Republican, Kasich wanted to be sure its members clearly supported the Second Amendment. Yet it also was to be bipartisan, representing views across the political spectrum.

The panel’s work accelerated after the Valentine’s Day slaughter at a high school in Parkland, Fla., and it eventually produced a legislative package that Kasich said represented “sensible changes that should keep people safer.” The legislation was introduced by a Republican lawmaker in the GOP-dominated Legislature.

It went nowhere.

Among other objections, the Republican leadership raised constitutional concerns about a provision allowing courts to order that weapons be seized from people showing signs of violence.

“The way we put it together, the fact that you had people on both sides of the issue – I would have thought something would have happened,” said Kasich, who watched the bill package languish in legislative chambers run by his own party. “But the negative voices come in unison, and they come strongly.”

The Ohio experience is not unusual.

An Associated Press review of all firearms-related legislation passed this year, encompassing the first full state legislative sessions since the Las Vegas attack, shows a decidedly mixed record. Gun-control bills did pass in a number of states, but the year was not the national game-changer that gun-control advocates had hoped it could be.

Even in a year that included yet another mass school shooting and an unprecedented level of gun-control activism, state legislatures across the country fell back to largely predictable and partisan patterns.

In Ohio, a coalition of groups representing students, teachers, school counselors, police chiefs, pediatricians and Catholic clergy joined in a letter to state legislative leaders urging them to pass the changes recommended by Kasich’s panel.

State Rep. Nickie Antonio, a Cleveland-area Democrat, said she could have told the governor it would fail. She said Republican lawmakers sound to her “like automatons” when the topic of gun control arises.

“They go to these automatic catchphrases that come right out of a pamphlet from either Buckeye Firearms or the NRA,” she said. “That’s what I think it’s about. I do believe it’s a case of follow the money.”

To express his frustration, Kasich refused to sign the next gun bill that crossed his desk, which waived certain concealed-carry license fees and training requirements for current and former military members. It became law without his signature.

Asked months later about the defeat of his legislation, the governor said gun-control groups are simply not as unified as the pro-gun lobby.

“And so you,” he said, “you have disparate groups going against a force that totally knows what it wants.”