Ohio Republicans are taking their first steps to put Gov. John Kasich’s “commonsense” gun control ideas into Ohio law.
In response to recent shootings in Texas, Las Vegas and Florida, Kasich and a bipartisan group of former lawmakers last month proposed changes to Ohio’s gun laws.
Backed by leaders of the Ohio House, Rep. Mike Henne, R-Clayton, said he is introducing a bill that would put all of those recommendations into law.
Both House Republicans and the Kasich group have shied away from more controversial gun control measures, such as expanding background checks or raising the minimum age for purchasing specific guns.
“This is all sensible stuff,” Henne told The Enquirer.
Most notably, the bill would allow police to take a person’s weapons if a court decides there is evidence that he or she poses a threat.
The National Rifle Association, which backs many Republicans in the Legislature, traditionally has opposed these sorts of “red-flag” laws, saying the measures lack due process. The group recently signaled support if the bills meet several criteria to prevent abuse of the statute.
“This has, I believe, the safeguards the NRA wants,” Henne said. “We’ll work with the NRA if it’s not exactly right. I’m not saying we’ll commit to everything, but we’re trying to work well with them.”
Democrats in the Legislature have already introduced this proposal.
The Republicans’ bill also would order clerks of court to upload at least weekly the names of people barred from owning guns because of a history of violent crime, drug use or mental illness. This is already a requirement, but dozens of courts have gone months without uploading any names to the national background check-database, an Enquirer review found.
But the bill doesn’t include a penalty for failing to do so. Henne said he hopes when the bill is in committee lawmakers will come up with a way to enforce the background check reporting. The Legislature can’t withhold clerks’ funding, Henne said, because their work is paid for with court fees.
The bill also would
- adopt in Ohio law the federal definition of an automatic weapon. President Donald Trump has instructed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to regulate “bump stocks,” which allow rifles to fire like machine guns. Once bump stocks are part of the definition of automatic weapons, making them illegal, Ohio law would also outlaw them.
- take away the right to buy or own a gun if a person is convicted of domestic violence or subject to a protection order. This would mirror federal law and allow local law enforcement and prosecutors to take on offenses.
- outlaw armor-piercing ammunition in Ohio. Some of these types of bullets are illegal federally.
- increase the penalty for buying a gun for someone who is barred from owning one. The maximum penalty under Ohio law is 18 months in prison. The bill would match the federal penalty: 10 years.
Kasich, who has signed several bills to loosen Ohio’s gun laws, recently changed his mind about gun control. He says he wants to limit the sale of assault-style weapons and expand background checks.
But his policy group shied away from such recommendations, and Republicans have not introduced any such bills. Some Democrats agree with Kasich on those stricter gun control ideas, but their proposals are unlikely to pass because Republicans have supermajorities in the Ohio House and Senate.
As Kasich has moderated, he has found himself less allied with his party’s leaders in the Ohio Legislature. But in releasing the gun-policy proposals, Kasich got agreement from “everybody” – from conservative gun owners to liberals, Henne said.
“There are people who are going to say this went too far. There are people who are going to say this didn’t go far enough,” Henne said. “It’s hard to argue with any of these (proposals). …
“We can make some serious changes in a reasonable amount of time.”