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Dayton Shooting Draws New Proposals and Mixed Reactions

Photo of Mike DeWine and Jon Husted
Gov. Mike DeWine unveils his 17-point plan to reduce gun violence.

Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled a slate of gun control proposals in the wake of the deadly mass shooting in Dayton August 4. This represents a dramatic shift in the public attitude of Ohio leaders when it comes to gun policies.

When DeWine visited Dayton Sunday to memorialize the people killed that morning he got a message from the crowd, which chanted "Do something!" The chant eventually drowned out DeWine's remarks.

At a press conference August 6, DeWine said that moment was not lost on him. Acknowledged the anger in the crowd and said he's angry too.

"Some chanted, 'Do Something,' and they were absolutely right."

DeWine's response was to roll out 17 different initiatives to reduce gun violence in Ohio. They include a so-called "Red Flag Law," which allows a judge to confiscate firearms from someone who poses a threat to themselves or others. His plan would also expand background checks, strengthen penalties on crimes involving guns, and increase access to mental health treatment.

DeWine said there's no "magic solution" to stopping gun violence. "But I can tell you this, if we do these things, it will matter. If we do these things it will make us safer."

Critics said these measures should've been introduced earlier, and while DeWine says they've been working on it he admits the Dayton shooting is playing a role.

"But look, we're all human, tragedy focuses you and you know it was time to get them out."

Since 2011, Republicans have controlled the Ohio House, Senate, and Governor's office, with little to no interest in passing strong gun regulations. Former Gov. John Kasich did push for some of these measures in his last year in office but that came after signing many pro-gun bills into law.

State Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) and other Democrats have spent years introducing bills that reflect what DeWine is now calling for. "Republicans got to step up," Thomas said. "They've got to do some self-evaluation of their values. You know people are dying. People are suffering from all of this."

State Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), of the Dayton area, said she will no longer be timid in expressing her support for "common sense" regulation. "To put a gun in the hands of someone who is mentally ill and has ill will towards other people is not protecting our constitutional rights, it's just plain foolish. It's stupid."

Republican lawmakers have emphasized passing pro-gun policies, such as expanding the ability to carry concealed weapons in daycares, on college campuses, and parts of airports. And they've pushed to allow people to carry concealed weapons without permits or training.

But when it comes to DeWine's proposed regulations, despite the mounting public pressure, Senate Republican Spokesperson John Fortney said legislators want to take their time. "The fact is, results count. You can't have an unconstitutional law or an ineffective law passed, because it does nothing to protect the public. If it's more important to score political points just to pass a law and pat yourself on the back, you're dishonoring the dead."

Chris Dorr with the group Ohio Gun Owners is staunchly opposed to DeWine's "Red Flag Law" which the governor called a safety protection order. "He can call that pig what he wants to. He can put as much lipstick on it, but a safety protection order is still a red flags order. You're still not convicted of a crime."

While Dorr said DeWine goes too far, there are gun regulation advocates who are pushing for even more, such as a ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.

DeWine acknowledged the divide in the wake of the mass shootings.

"Look we might have some differences, we should never forget that what holds us together as Americans, as Ohioans, is so much greater than any differences."

DeWine planned to spend time reaching out to Republican leaders in the House and Senate to try and bridge the divide to build support for his proposals.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.