Ohio Governor Calls for Overhaul of Gun Background System

The proposal, which hasn’t yet been drafted into a final bill, is a part of a 17-point violence prevention plan in response to the mass shooting in Dayton earlier this month, which left nine people dead and 27 injured.

by Brooks Sutherland, The Blade / August 29, 2019
Shutterstock/Allen.G

(TNS) — The state and federal background check systems currently being used are “dangerously deficient,” says Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who wants to fix them by requiring local officials to enter warrants and protection orders for violent offenders into those databases within 48 hours.

The Republican governor spoke during a news conference Wednesday, saying “it will come as a shock” to Ohioans that such entry isn’t currently required by the law.

“When critical information is missing, bad things happen,” Mr. DeWine said at the conference. “... There is currently no law in Ohio requiring the entry of warrants for violent crimes and protection orders into these systems. This makes absolutely no sense. This again puts our law enforcement officers at risk each day. It puts our citizens at risk. And it increases the chances that someone who shouldn’t buy a gun will walk into a store and be able to buy one.”

The governor’s proposal, which hasn’t yet been drafted into a final bill, is a part of his 17-point violence prevention plan in response to the mass shooting in Dayton earlier this month, which left nine people dead and 27 injured. His overall plan seeks to reduce gun violence and provide more mental health services.

The background check proposal would need to be signed off by the Ohio General Assembly. Mr. DeWine also has a proposal before the legislature that would make Ohio the 18th state to enact a law allowing courts to take away guns from individuals deemed dangerous and unfit for gun ownership in a court hearing.

A spokesman for House Speaker Larry Householder (R., Glenford) did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday on Mr. DeWine’s background check proposal.

Mr. DeWine said the new system would not only benefit civilians and officers, but would assist gun dealers with quicker updates on background checks.

“Responsible gun shop owners do not want to sell a gun to someone who should not have one,” said Mr. DeWine. “So, when a dealer calls NICS [National Instant Criminal Background Check System], they depend on that information, and the public depends on that information to be accurate and complete.”

A task force created by Mr. DeWine concluded Ohio to have around 500,000 open warrants and found that only 217,000 of those are entered into the state’s Law Enforcement Automated Data Systems. The task force also found that only 18,117 were entered into the federal National Crime Information Center database. Mr. DeWine’s proposal would require entry of 28 “Tier 1” offenses into the databases. The list includes violent crimes such as murder, felonious assault, domestic violence, and aggravated menacing.

“The state and federal background systems are only as good as the information put into them,” Mr. DeWine said.

Toby Hoover, the founder of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, called the proposal a “step in the right direction,” but says she wants to see the governor’s plans against violence address loopholes in buying a gun.

“It certainly is a good idea,” she said of Mr. DeWine’s proposal. “A lot of people that ought to be in that database, aren’t. But it needs the next step. We have to have background checks on every sale. If people are buying guns at a gun show and not receiving background checks, it doesn’t take care of the problem.”

The Buckeye Firearms Association called the current background check system “broken,” and supported Mr. DeWine’s “concept of enforcing current law rather than passing new laws for background checks,” in a statement. The organization said it opposes Mr. DeWine’s red flag proposal however, writing: “we’ve never seen one that respects due process.”

Mr. DeWine’s proposal includes transitioning a dual system that involves paperwork into a singular, digital system. He’s tasked Lt. Gov. Jon Husted to improve the technology behind the clerical work. While such warrants are often entered into the system already, the work is not required by law, and puts a strain on local government officials to keep up with the process, he said. Mr. DeWine said the state had an “obligation” improve the system and to pay for it all.

“We have to do this,” he said. “... We have to get this right.”

©2019 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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