Gov. DeWine’s 17 proposed actions to prevent gun violence in Ohio

'This is the right thing to do'
Posted at 1:44 PM, Aug 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-06 21:20:54-04

COLUMBUS — On Sunday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine took the microphone at a vigil for the victims of the weekend mass shooting in Dayton. As DeWine spoke, many in the crowd chanted “Do something! Do something!”

An accused gunman had killed nine others, including his own sister, during a shooting rampage in Dayton’s Oregon District in the early morning hours. Dozens more were injured.

On Tuesday, speaking from the Ohio Statehouse, the Republican governor said he heard the chanting Sunday night and understands the anger felt by many who were in the crowd.

“We are angry, and they should be angry,” DeWine said. “It’s impossible to make sense out of what is senseless.”

DeWine proposed a series of legislative actions that he said will help prevent mass shootings in addition to the daily epidemic of gun violence by requiring background checks, expanding services for people with mental illnesses and expanding a school safety tip line, among other proposals.

Some of the governor’s proposals require action from state lawmakers while others are already being implemented.

DeWine’s proposed actions include:

1. Safety protection orders

DeWine said the state needs to empower people to get help for family members and loved ones who may be a danger to themselves or others. These individuals may have a mental illness of suffer from addiction. DeWine said mental illness plus access to firearms is a “deadly combination.”

The governor is urging lawmakers to pass legislation allowing courts to issue safety protection orders, removing firearms from “potentially dangerous individuals” and getting them “mental health treatment that they need.”

WATCH two state lawmakers discuss DeWine's proposals:

If the court order is granted, under the governor’s proposal, a person believed to be a risk to themselves or others would be required to surrender all firearms to law enforcement and undergo a mental health assessment.

"These concerns must, of course — our constitution demands it — be balanced against the individual's right to keep and bear arms,” DeWine said.

2. Increased access to inpatient psychiatric care

“We must have increased access for the citizens of the state of Ohio to our state psychiatric hospitals,” DeWine said. “We have a problem in this state.”

DeWine said Ohio’s state psychiatric hospital capacity has been maxed out by patients court-ordered to the hospital to determine if those individuals are competent to stand trial. Many are non-violent offenders.

The governor urges the Ohio General Assembly to create a community based misdemeanor competency restoration process in an outpatient setting, freeing more hospital beds for patients who need psychiatric care.

“I’m calling on the legislature today to do that,” DeWine said.

3. Early intervention

“We have a serious mental health crisis among many of our children in the state of Ohio today. It is growing worse,” DeWine said.

The governor said the suicide rate among young people breaks his heart and that “providing early intervention helps young people recover more quickly and have better outcomes,” he said.

DeWine said under the budget approved by state lawmakers, the state is investing $675 million for “wraparound services,” which can be used for mental health services for children from suicide prevention to the effects of substance abuse. Some of the funding will be distributed to schools for districts to create programs to help students with these issues.

4. Student access to mental health professionals

Also under Ohio’s budget, $15 million will be used to provide telehealth mental health services to students.

“So no matter where a child lives in the state of Ohio — no matter how remote it is — they have access to high quality mental health care,” DeWine said.

5. Identifying risk factors

DeWine said the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will better work with communities to increase knowledge of the risk factors for mental illness in children.

The agency will also share screening tools and help “link parents, families and schools with proven supports and strategies to manage wellness over the child’s lifetime.”

6. Background checks

DeWine asked the Ohio General Assembly to pass a law “that requires background checks for all firearm sales in the state of Ohio with the exception for gifts between family members and certain other limited uses.”

7. Penalties for violent felons

“Far too often criminals who have absolutely no right under Ohio law to possess a gun are using guns nonetheless,” DeWine said. “That’s who we have to go after.”

While we mourn the loss of the victims of the Dayton tragedy, DeWine said, we must also remember the hundreds of other Ohioans who have lost their lives to gun violence.

The governor proposed increasing the penalties for violent felons who continue to illegally possess or use guns.

See the next six proposals for his specific recommendations:

8. Illegal possession of a firearm by a violent felon

“We must increase penalties for violent felons and other people who are found with a gun that they do not have the right to possess,” DeWine said.

For the crime of having weapons while under a disability, DeWine proposes:

  • Current: Third-degree felony; 3 years maximum in prison
  • Proposed first offense: Second-degree felony; 2-8 years in prison
  • Subsequent offense: First-degree felony; 3-11 years in prison

9. Possession of firearm while committing a felony

This proposal would increase penalties for people who commit felonies with a firearm or who possess a firearm while committing a felony.

  • Current: Additional 1 year in prison
  • Proposed: Mandatory additional 1-3 years in prison

10. Increased penalties for brandishing a gun

DeWine proposed a reform to increase the penalty for those who commit a felony while brandishing a firearm.

  • Current: Additional 3 years in prison
  • Proposed: Mandatory 3-5 years in prison

11. Increased penalties for straw purchasers

The term “straw purchases” refers to illegally buying guns for another person in the state. Straw purchasing is illegal under Ohio and federal law.

“The Ohio law must be toughened,” DeWine said.

  • Current: Third-degree felony; 3 years maximum in prison
  • Proposed: Second-degree felony; 2-8 years in prison

12. Increased penalties for illegally obtained guns

This proposal applies to people who possess a firearm with the knowledge that the firearm was obtained “through an illegal or fraudulent purchase in order to avoid a federal background check.”

  • Current: Third-degree felony; 3 years maximum in prison
  • Proposed: Second-degree felony; 2-8 years in prison

13. Improperly providing firearms to minors

DeWine said he is not referring to hunting or guns that serve as family heirlooms.

“We find too many of our kids are carrying guns on the streets often with tragic consequences,” he said. “So adults who illegally furnish firearms to minors must be held accountable.”

  • Current: Fifth-degree felony; 12-months maximum in prison
  • Proposed: Third-degree felony; 3 years maximum in prison

14. School tip line

“We are expanding our school safety tip line where kids and adults can call or text anonymously with tips about potential school violence,” DeWine said.

The phone number to call is 844-723-3764.

“We’re asking people to step up,” the governor said. “When you see something, when you hear something, do something.”

15. Social media monitoring

DeWine said The Hub at the Ohio Department of Public Safety will expand to include the ability to track and share threats on social media.

“Time after time,” DeWine said, “you go back and you see on social media, the signs were there. We should have caught them.”

Information state officials find related to potential threats will be shared with local school and law enforcement.

16. Community safety

The budget approved by the Ohio General Assembly, DeWine said, also includes, “nearly $9 million to help harden soft targets like nonprofits and religious organizations to make their facilities more secure.”

Funding will be used to assist organizations in order to prevent deadly incidents.

17. School safety and intervention programs

DeWine proposes working closely with Sandy Hook Promise. Ohio schools are also implementing “Know the Signs” safety programs across the state to equip school staff with the knowledge and skills to identify potential threats of violent acts. There are currently 23 training dates scheduled.

“I believe these proposals fulfill three important requirements,” DeWine concluded. “They can pass the legislature, they make meaningful progress toward safer communities, and they are Constitutional. Passing them won’t be easy, but this is the right thing to do and this is the right time to do it.”