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Competing Gun Bills Debated in Ohio Legislature

A photo of Fred Guttenberg, father of one of 17 year old killed in Parkland, Florida school shooting.
Fred Guttenberg, father of one of 17 year old killed in Parkland, Florida school shooting.

The Ohio Legislature is hearing testimony on dueling gun bills this week.

Democrats have previously introduced a ban on bump stocks and a so called “red flag” bill to allow seizure of guns from potentially violent people. But this new bill was sponsored by Republican Representative Mike Henne, and it does those things plus bans armor piercing ammo and requires better tracking of gun purchases. While the Democrat-backed bills haven’t moved, Henne’s bill was introduced Friday and has already had its first hearing. 

“We are trying to get the guns out of the people who are not in their right mind. That’s all we are trying to do. We are not trying to impede on anyone’s second amendment rights," Henne said.

Backing for the bill
One supporter of the bill is Fred Guttenberg, the father of 17-year-old Jaime, one of the students killed in the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“My daughter was gunned down while running down a hallway," Guttenberg said. "She was one of 17 killed that day and 17 others were seriously injured.”

Guttenberg met with Gov. John Kasich, who supports this bill, before the hearing. Kasich announced his support for these regulations last month, which was a change for a governor who had signed every gun law expansion that had crossed his desk during his time in office.

Stand your ground
Meanwhile, hearings on another gun bill that has more Republican support were held for the fourth time in House and Senate committees. The “Stand Your Ground” bill makes it easier to use lethal force as self-defense. Doug Deeken, Coordinator for Ohioans for Concealed Carry, supports that bill. But he opposes this kind of “red flag” bill.

“The idea that you can have a hearing where someone is not present to confront their own accuser and yet can lose a constitutionally enumerated right is simply unacceptable," Deeken said.

Deeken blasts Henne and Kasich, who are both term limited, for playing politics.

“This is nothing more than self-serving on the governor’s part. It’s all about his own political ambitions. It has nothing to do with legislation, good, bad or indifferent here in Ohio," Deeken said. "He doesn’t care about the rights of Ohioans. This is nothing more than John Kasich’s ambitions written on a piece of legislation that Mike Henne couldn’t even find one person, none of the other 98 people in the House of Representatives are on board with him on this and that tells you everything you need to know about what’s happening. It’s just political theater.”

Moving beyond partisan politics
Many Democratic lawmakers are on record for wanting more gun restrictions. But many more Republicans in the legislature, especially those who are running in primaries, are not eager to support restrictions. When asked about why more people in his own party are not joining him in backing the bill, Kasich responds this way.

“I’m sort of sick and tired of talking about Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. I’m interested in people who are objective and can be rational as they make decisions about this and any other issue. Do I think there are enough people here to pass something? I do. And the legislative schedule means nothing to me. It can always come back. It is not the end of it," Kasich said. 

Kasich says Ohio could become a model for the country if it took action on Henne’s bill. And he’s also said he won’t sign the “stand your ground” bill if it passes. In the end, neither bill was voted out of committee this time.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment. Jo started her career in Louisville, Kentucky in the mid 80’s when she helped produce a televised presidential debate for ABC News, worked for a creative services company and served as a general assignment report for a commercial radio station. In 1989, she returned back to her native Ohio to work at the WOSU Stations in Columbus where she began a long resume in public radio.