Gun-control supporters remain skeptical
Prompted to act by the bloodshed in Dayton, Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine proposed a package of measures Tuesday that he says will address mass shootings, declaring, “We can come together to do these things to save lives.”
Yet members of DeWine’s own party have repeatedly blocked gun-control measures in the Legislature, leaving the fate of his proposals uncertain.
Even the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and the school massacre in Parkland, Fla., could not move Ohio Republicans to act on most elements of a gun-control package proposed last year by then-Gov. John Kasich, also a Republican.
Republican lawmakers sought to expand gun-owner protections in a bill Kasich ultimately vetoed.
DeWine’s proposals include requiring background checks for nearly all gun sales in Ohio, allowing courts to restrict firearms access for people perceived as threats, increasing community support to identify mental health risks, expanding use of the state’s school safety tip line and beefing up social media monitoring.
“We know there’s going to be some violence; it’s the world we live in,” the governor said. “But I can tell you this: If we do these things, it will matter. If we do these things, it will make us safer.”
DeWine invited some Ohio gun-rights advocates to his news conference, while gun-control advocates stood outside in the hall. That led some to wonder how tough any of the proposals ultimately will be.
“He’s in there talking about gun control when he knows darn well it’s never going to pass,” said Kelly Weber, 40, an elementary school teacher from Gahanna, a Columbus suburb. “So he’s doing it to appease people. He doesn’t care about gun safety.”
It’s unclear whether any of DeWine’s proposed changes would have done anything to prevent the Dayton shooting, which left nine dead and 37 injured. Betts had no apparent criminal record as an adult, and police said there was nothing in his background that would have prevented him from buying a gun.
For the reforms to work, mental health concerns would have to be reported by parents, classmates, educators or law enforcement, then authorities would need to do something with that information, DeWine said.
His package also does not address some of the more restrictive laws adopted in other states, such as banning assault-style weapons or limiting the size of ammunition magazines. Police say the shooter in Dayton was equipped with an AR-15 style gun and a 100-round magazine.
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper urged the governor and Republican lawmakers to work with Democrats so any gun control package has bipartisan support. Democrats also noted that a red flag bill already had been introduced this year in the Legislature – by a Democrat. The bill’s author, state Sen. Sandra Williams, wrote to the chamber’s Republican leader after the Dayton shooting asking for action on her legislation.
“Ohio Democrats have been pushing gun violence prevention laws for years, while Republican politicians in Columbus have worked overtime not just to stop them all, but to move in the opposite direction, including allowing guns everywhere from bars to day cares,” Pepper said in a statement Tuesday.
In the year after the February 2018 high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., so-called “red flag” laws have grown as a tool being used by states to reduce suicides and homicides. In general, they make it easier to take guns away from people who may be suicidal or bent on violence against others. At least nine states have passed such laws and others, including Pennsylvania, are debating them.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Kasich said DeWine’s legislative package closely mirrors his own and that his failure to get his passed does not make DeWine’s attempt a hollow promise.
“This is more than lip service,” he said.