DeWine's STRONG Ohio Gun Bill Facing Criticism from Both Sides

Oct 24, 2019

Two weeks after Governor Mike DeWine unveiled his so-called STRONG Ohio gun control package, groups on both sides of the issue are ramping up the rhetoric.

The plan disappointed many who wanted universal background checks and a law allowing a judge to take guns from someone deemed a threat. DeWine called for both after the Oregon District mass shooting.

Now, both sides are lobbying lawmakers as they consider DeWine’s gun violence bill. 

The night after the mass shooting in the Oregon District, thousands gathered for a vigil. When Ohio Governor Mike DeWine addressed the crowd, he was shouted down with chants demanding action.  

A few days later DeWine credited that crowd with convincing him to take action and laid out a 17-point plan for gun control. 

“Some of them chanted 'Do Something,' and they were absolutely right.” DeWine says.

DeWine’s plan included universal background checks. He also proposed a red flag law that would allow courts to take a person's firearms away if they were deemed dangerous. 

Neither of those provisions were in the language of DeWine’s bill when he released it earlier this month. 

The so-called STRONG OHIO bill doesn’t include a red flag law, and expanded background checks would be voluntary instead of mandatory. 

Those rollbacks made Second Amendment rights advocates happy.   

At a firing range called Sim-Trainer a few miles south of the Oregon District, people line up and take aim. 

Owner Jeff Pedro, a retired Kettering police officer, says expanded background checks—voluntary ​or mandatory—wouldn’t have the impact some gun control advocates are hoping for. 

“The initial knee jerk reaction was the typical feel good response, 'We gotta do something. It will make me feel good to do something, even if it won’t have an effect.' One of the things they talk about is expanded background checks, but here’s one thing I know being a police officer of 29 years: criminals don’t go through background checks.”

But Pedro does support a lot of DeWine’s provisions. He says he’s in favor of increased penalties for “straw buying,” where someone purchases a gun for another person--often, a person  who wouldn’t be able to pass a background check.

“Those kind of things--making sure that the existing laws are enforced, and other things with mental health, giving more money to schools to bring in mental health professionals so they can do early diagnostics on kids that are having emotional issues that need to be dealt with early,” Pedro said are things he supports. He says he isn’t against new legislation, as long as it’s carefully worded to protect Second Amendment rights. 

At the 2nd Street Public Market in downtown Dayton, Maura Donahue is asking people to sign a petition calling on Ohio lawmakers to institute background checks on private gun sales. 

Donahue has been working with two groups--Ohioans for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action--since the mass shooting in the Oregon District on August 4. Her daughter was at the Hole in the Wall bar when the shooting occurred outside.  

“When she realized what was happening, the backdoor exit was really log-jammed with people and she thought, 'I can’t get out.' So, she and about 15 other people laid on the floor in the bathroom in the Hole in the Wall--huddled together in fear with their feet up against the door. The shots were so loud that they thought the shooter was shooting up the bar,” Donahue recalls.

Donahue says she was also inspired to act by the people who shouted down Ohio Governor Mike DeWine at a vigil in the Oregon District the night after the shooting. 

“I knew I had to take action, just like the people of Dayton told Mike DeWine 'Do Something! Do something! Do Something!'" Donahue said.

Donahue wishes the governor's plan went further. In addition to stronger background checks, she says she’d like to see a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. And she says she hopes others will push for those types of laws, too. 

“My message for people today is to not wait until it gets personal because it just might," Donahue warns.

Donahue says she’s hoping efforts to prevent mass shootings won’t end up in limbo.  There are already a handful of other bills languishing in the Ohio legislature from before the Oregon District shooting.