CLEVELAND (AP) — Recent deadly shootings at places of worship have prompted Ohio's pro-gun rights Republican governor to consider pursuing new laws aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of people who are a threat to the safety of themselves and others.
Gov. Mike DeWine wants the state Legislature to consider a so-called "red flag" law that would allow a judge to temporarily seize the guns of those believed to be a threat, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
"I have asked my team to work on that ... trying to get a red flag law that can pass. That's my goal," DeWine said Monday in response to a reporter's question.
DeWine is insistent that any new laws protect Second Amendment rights and afford people the opportunity to present evidence to a judge before their guns can be taken from them, spokesman Dan Tierney said. Whatever proposal the administration crafts must stand a chance of being approved by the Republican-led Legislature, he said.
Tierney made clear that no proposal has been crafted to this point and that the process will include feedback from legislators and gun rights groups. DeWine during his successful 2018 campaign talked about new gun laws to address "immediate threats," Tierney said.
"The governor's position has been the same for months," Tierney said.
DeWine's comments prompted pushback by the pro-gun group Buckeye Firearms Association, which said officials of the organization were told that DeWine misspoke when he used the "red flag" phrase.
Tierney told The Dispatch that wasn't true.
DeWine's predecessor, Republican John Kasich, failed to convince the Legislature to act on a law that would enable family members, guardians or police to ask judges to issue a restraining order to temporarily strip gun rights from people who show warning signs of violence. Such laws are currently in place in 14 states.
Meanwhile, DeWine's newly created arrest-warrant task force will examine how law enforcement databases in Ohio can be improved to ensure that people diagnosed with severe mental illness don't slip through the system, allowing them to buy guns when they are not competent to possess firearms, Tierney said.
Dean Rieck, executive director of Buckeye Firearms Association, on Wednesday pointed to a statement posted on the organization's website that said existing state laws "deal with violence and mental concerns" and counter "all the needless calls for 'Red Flag' laws." Rieck declined to be interviewed.
Jim Irvine, Buckeye Firearms' board president, said Wednesday that red flag laws in other states are used to unjustly seize firearms.
"That's why it's a nerve button for gun owners," Irvine said.
He said the group would be willing to listen if problems are found in Ohio's current laws that need to be addressed.
"No one has brought one to me, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist," he said.