COLUMBUS (WCMH) — At a news conference held Monday afternoon, State Representatives Phil Plummer and D.J. Swearingen proposed a new law that tackles a number of topics related to gun violence.
The thrust of their bill is to enhance background checks by having law enforcement and courts do a better job at reporting accurate data in a timely fashion to background check systems.
They want to give Innovation Ohio $10 million to create software to make that process more efficient and streamlined. Another $2.4 million would go to the Department of Public Safety to run the system and have a compliance team to make sure everyone was using it properly.
This is strikingly similar to what Gov. Mike DeWine talked about a month ago when he announced nearly this same exact thing as part of his STRONG Ohio initiative. He even had Lt. Gov. Jon Husted talk about Innovation Ohio’s role in how it would be done.
When first asked if the legislators had worked with the administration on this, Plummer said they had not. Later, he said he had read what DeWine was proposing and had communicated with Husted.
The bill does not stop with shoring up reporting for background checks. It goes on to make two other significant changes; one to the definition of mental illness and the other deals with juveniles and their future gun rights.
The first of those two changes alters the definition of mental illness to include those who suffer from a moderate to severe substance use disorder that has been diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional.
This would allow for addicts to be involuntarily committed to state hospitals.
Plummer lamented about how some law enforcement and first responders are encountering overdose victims multiple times over. This would allow them to be taken to a hospital to receive treatment they did not come to the point of wanting on their own.
When asked where the money would come from to pay for an influx of patients, Plummer said, “The hospitals are there, right, they already have the beds, they have the infrastructure built; our goal is to get people into treatment. My experience is people are not good in the treatment unless they are tired of being tired, or they are forced in it through the court system. Very rarely are they tired of being tired… if we can pink slip you, take you to a treatment center, you may realize hey I’ve hit rock bottom, it’s time I get help.”
The second change was in the amount of time a juvenile can have their gun rights withheld from them.
Currently the records of most sexual and violent juvenile offenders are expunged around the age of 23. Plummer and Swearingen wants to extend this to 28 years old before the records are expunged.
Further, they want to make it so that if a juvenile is adjudicated for a violent or sexually-oriented crime as a minor, they will not be able to possess a firearm until their record is expunged; effectively at the age of 28 years old.
Plummer said people have to be held accountable.
“You can go get treatment, you can get help, and after that 10 year time frame if you’re a better citizen, you’ll be able to get your gun rights back,” said Plummer. “It’s a tough debate. If it was an easy fix, we would have fixed it years ago. So, we believe, looking at the demographics of our past mass shooters, this plugs a lot of the holes.”
One final thing the bill does is bring Ohio into line with Federal law when it comes to domestic violence being a prohibitive factor in the possession of guns.
Currently, federal law says if you have been convicted of domestic violence, you are not allowed to possess or purchase firearms; Ohio law does not.
Swearingen said that is making things difficult for law enforcement.
“They’ll go into homes where they see a serial domestic abuser, they’ll also see weapons and they are literally handcuffed from doing anything about that. And it’s only a matter of time between then and when that turns into a domestic homicide,” said Swearingen.
Not everyone was impressed with the bill.
Dennis Willard with Ohioans for Gun Safety said it doesn’t address the main issue in his mind; the gun show loophole.
Ohioans for Gun Safety are gathering petition signatures to bring that issue to the voters.
“[Plummer and Swearingen are] kind of dancing around the edge of the issue. What we would like to see them do is close the loophole,” said Willard. “Twenty-one states have closed the background check loophole and in those states gun violence has gone down and we know that lives have been saved.”
Meanwhile, DeWine’s office released a statement not long after the news conference Monday. It reads:
“Governor DeWine thanks the House of Representatives for their work at addressing the information not being reported for background checks, as well as the serious mental health and substance abuse issues contributing to gun violence. The Governor is continuing work on his STRONG Ohio proposal, which he intends to unveil October 7th.”