Next Monday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is set to unveil the legislative language of his 17-point plan to “reduce gun violence, increase mental health prevention [and] treatment,” but his fellow Republicans in the legislature went ahead and introduced legislation of their own on Monday afternoon, and it looks very different from two of DeWine’s priorities; universal background checks and a “red flag” law. Instead, State Reps. Phil Plummer and D.J. Swearingen are hoping to dramatically improve the existing records reporting to the NICS system, as well as to treat Ohioans with drug addictions.
Under Plummer and Swearingen’s legislation (which doesn’t yet have a bill number), authorities would be allowed to “pink slip” (i.e., involuntarily commit to a hospital) Ohioans who have been professionally diagnosed with a moderate or severe substance abuse problem.
It would also require local and state courts and law enforcement to report criminal convictions, warrants, domestic violence orders, and other court actions to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is used to conduct background checks prior to gun sales. Failure to report such information within one business day would bring a $1,000 state fine under the bill, which also includes $10 million to develop an online reporting system and $2.4 million annually to run it.
Finally, the bill would allow juvenile records to be expunged only at age 28, rather than age 23 under current law. Supporters of the change have noted that the 26-year-old man who killed nine and wounded 27 in Dayton’s Oregon District on Aug. 4 had his juvenile record expunged, allowing him to pass background checks to buy the guns he used in the attack.
The involuntary commitment language is interesting, particularly since it ties into substance abuse. Ohio has been hit hard by both opioids and meth, and it 2017 had an overdose death rate of 39 per 100,000 people. The homicide rate in Ohio was far lower, at 5.6 per 100,000 people. The civil libertarian in me always gets a little nervous when the phrase “involuntary commitment” is thrown around, but I could also see this saving far more lives than any universal background check bill or “red flag” law.
As for the language from Governor DeWine’s office, according to sources with knowledge of the ongoing discussions, the language hasn’t been finalized but so far there are still pieces of the proposal that are problematic to 2nd Amendment activists and many Republican lawmakers.
House Speaker Larry Householder and other House Republicans (who hold a legislative supermajority) have given a cool reception to many other parts of DeWine’s gun-reform package – in particular, his proposals to require background checks for sales online and at gun shows, as well as a “red-flag” law that would allow authorities to confiscate guns from those deemed by a judge to be a threat to themselves or others.
With the legislative supermajority, Speaker Householder is holding most of the political cards. Governor DeWine can propose gun control legislation, and can even find a Republican sponsor or two, but that’s not going to be nearly enough to get a bill to his desk, and the party in-fighting could get ugly in the meantime, egged on by an anti-gun and largely leftwing media that will be happy to highlight and amplify any intra-party squabbles over gun control. I guess we’ll find out in a week if the governor is prepared to fight a losing battle for gun control laws that don’t work in the first place.