COLUMBUS (WCMH) — When do you know your legislation is facing an uphill battle? When the chairman of the committee is calling elements of it out on the carpet for not being clear enough in its first hearing.
That is exactly what happened to State Senators Cecil Thomas and Peggy Lehner as they introduced a bill they say would close loopholes that allow private sellers to transfer firearms at gun shows without needing to get a background check first.
Pro-second amendment advocates oppose the idea of forcing background checks onto these sellers, while those who want them point out the inherent danger of not having someone’s background checked before they are sold a gun.
Senator Thomas claimed during the hearing that a large number of guns used in crimes came from a sale at a gun show.
Chairman of the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee William Coley III, a Republican from Liberty Township, asked Thomas to supply him with hard data that corroborates that claim. Thomas agreed to do so.
Coley then went on to point out a number of potential flaws within the current bill, to which Thomas and Lehner push back explaining that not only could the bill be amended to clarify those areas but that like most bills brought before lawmakers at the Statehouse, it was not perfect; that they process by which bills are heard is innately designed to address such shortcomings.
The bill calls for promoters of gun shows to jump through some additional hoops, securing insurance, and other things or face criminal prosecution for misdemeanor crimes.
Loosely worded definitions may be problematic as pointed out by Coley, the only Republican to ask questions of the bill, to which Thomas agreed further clarification was necessary.
The duo’s second bill bans bump stocks and high capacity magazines.
Bump stocks are already banned federally, Ohio has not yet changed its law to reflect this.
Lehner spoke of how high capacity magazines were used in several recent mass shootings that killed 101 people and injured another 459 in the span of just a few months; the incidents were the Las Vegas concert shooting; the shooting in Southerland Springs,
Texas; and the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
She also referenced the mass shooting that occurred in her home district of Dayton this summer, where the shooter had two 100 round drum magazines full of ammunition when he killed 9 people and injured 27 others in August.
Both Thomas and Lehner explained they valued and sought to protect 2nd Amendment rights, but also pointed out that rights are not absolute in all cases, at all times, and for all things.
They believe that when it comes to protecting the public, the government can curtail some rights.
Lehner posed the question to lawmakers on the committee, “Where can we draw the line? Is there any weapon that you would put outside of the authority of a private citizen to own? Any at all?”
Lehner says she thinks that line should be when a weapon has no valid use for things like hunting, sport, or protecting our homes and families.
In her opinion, there is no valid use for high capacity magazines and bump stocks when weighed through that filter of hunting, sport, or protecting homes and families.
After the pair presented their bills, State Senator Matt Dolan walked lawmakers through Governor Mike DeWine’s proposed legislation.
Much like a red flag law, the bill seeks to keep guns out of the hands of people who are a danger to themselves or others.
Unlike a red flag law, the Governor’s proposal allows for someone to be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital if they have chronic alcoholism or a drug abuse problem and are accused of being a danger to themselves or others for 72 hours while an assessment is made.
At the conclusion of that assessment, a judge will determine if their guns need to be taken away.
Dolan made it clear that the subject of the pink slip will not return home until a judge rules in their case.
Some see this taking of personal freedom to be even worse than taking someone’s guns.
The argument Pro-2nd Amendment supporters have had against red flag laws is what they believe to be a lack of due process.
In a red flag law situation, a hearing is held without the subject present and evidence of their danger is given. If the judge is convinced they are a danger, he rules the guns to be removed and a full hearing is held a few days later to give the subject time to organize their defense.
Law enforcement, and other groups, don’t like this for a couple of reasons; one it informs the person who may be dangerous that their window for acting on their plan is closing and leaves them with the freedom to act on that plan by some other means; it also puts law enforcement into a potential confrontation with someone who may not be willing to hand over their guns, which could and has ended tragically. Mostly though, it’s that ex-parte hearing Pro-2nd Amendment advocates don’t like, they feel the subject should be able to defend themselves against the accusations before the guns are taken.
Which brings us to the Governor’s proposal, using the existing pink slip process.
In this process, an ex-parte hearing is held without the subject present (obviously, that’s what ex-parte means) and if the judge is convinced they are a danger to themselves or others law enforcement is sent to wherever you are be it home, work, school, church, and you are taken into custody and brought to a facility for assessment and treatment.
Some find Pro-2nd Amendment advocates tolerance of this process to be hypocritical; and to be clear not all Pro-2nd Amendment groups are happy with this process.
When asked if he thought someone’s personal freedom was less important than their 2nd Amendment rights Dolan deflected the question, stating that pink slipping someone does not infringe on their due process rights; leaving some to wonder if it’s okay to employ ex-parte hearings to determine some things, but not others.
In addition to the pink slip / red flag style legislation, the bill also address background checks in two ways. It updates requirements for keeping records up to date so background checks are more accurate and timely.
It also creates an optional background check for private sellers that carries a criminal penalty of they choose not to participate and the buyer turns out to be someone who shouldn’t have a gun.
It was stated on more than one occasion during the hearing that Ohioans overwhelmingly support the idea of universal background checks, frequently stated to the degree of 90% of voters.
When asked why the Governor’s bill does not do what Ohioans want, Dolan did not have a direct answer. Instead he tried to pivot back to the potential benefits of the bill.
After the hearing, Coley was asked if he planned to give any of the bills more hearings and his responses painted a much more favorable light on the Governor’s bill that Dolan is sponsoring.
When asked specifically about the Thomas and Lehner bills, he deferred to saying he would have to talk with the committee about what they wanted to do about those bills, and whether they should move forward with them as their own legislation or if they should be incorporated into another bill.
He did say that he was willing to meet with interested parties of all types, from all sides of the argument, individually so they could feel free to express their issues with the bills, and so he could have a clear understanding of their concerns.
He also said that he planned to continue work on the Governor’s bill in a steady, methodical way. The same sentiment was not expressed about the bipartisan bills, which may have just had their one and only required hearing this General Assembly.