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Governor's "Passable" Gun Bill Lacks Some Original Elements

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Two months and a day after Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced he was working on a plan to address gun violence in the wake of a mass shooting in Dayton, he unveiled a bill Monday he says lawmakers will approve. 

DeWine had wanted two major elements – a version of a “red flag” gun seizure law, and enhanced background checks. He says his STRONG Ohio plan, which will be sponsored by Senator Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) will create improved measures to protect the public, will increase private sale background checks and will decrease gun violence overall.

Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted said the mission was to come up with something that would be constitutional and respect Second Amendment rights, that had to be able to pass and had to work. He said this package was developed with hundreds of hours of consultations with mental health experts, hospitals, law enforcement and gun rights groups.

“Everything we are doing places no new restrictions or limitations on a law-abiding citizen to own a gun. These proposals are focused on keeping guns out of the hands of people who, based on current law, are prevented from owning a gun,” said Husted.

Husted said the administration felt a “red flag” law would be “inadequate and unworkable”, for two reasons. He said a valid due process period would take at least 72 hours, which poses a potential danger to that person and to law enforcement. And he said just removing the gun doesn’t mean you’ve kept that person or others safe.

The proposal in this bill is being called an “enhanced safety protection order”. It’s built on the existing “pink slip” law, which allows for people assessed by mental health experts in a psychiatric facility. Husted said this would add substance abuse as a reason for allows a person to be pink slipped, along with mental illness. And it would also require anyone who is deemed to be a danger to themselves or others to surrender their weapons.

The bill also creates a new system for background checks for private gun sales and transfers. The “seller protection certificate” would not create a requirement for a background check for private gun sales, but Husted said it would create “an easy way for buyers to prove they are legally allowed to own a gun and to give private sellers peace of mind and a responsible way to sell a gun to someone who they may not know.”

Husted said potential buyers can request background checks from sheriffs’ offices, which can issue a “seller protection certificate” good for 90 days. That certificate or a valid concealed carry weapons permit can be presented to private sellers as proof they’ve passed a background check.

Husted said private sellers won’t have to require sellers to have that certificate, but will have an incentive to use the system – there’s a penalty of up to three years in prison for selling a gun to a criminal.

“Under this plan, the excuse ‘I didn’t know he was a bad guy’ will no longer work in the state of Ohio. We are making it easy for private sellers to act responsibly and have peace of mind. We create a solution, an incentive, and a consequence,” Husted said.

Husted said this system should be implemented by mid-January.

The bill will start in the Republican-dominated Senate, where it’s expected to have an easier path to passage than in the House. Speaker Larry Householder has expressed reservations about the gun seizure idea in particular, saying he’s concerned about due process rights of gun owners but also about giving a “heads up” to those who might be dangerous.  

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