It’s no secret in Ohio politics that while Gov. Mike DeWine has been willing to sign pro-2A legislation that gets to his desk, including Constitutional Carry, he’s got his own set of proposals to reduce violent crime that he’d like the Republican-controlled legislature to adopt as well.
DeWine first introduced his STRONG Ohio package of bills in in 2019, but since then lawmakers haven’t shown much interest in advancing the legislation. With Constitutional Carry now enshrined in state law, however, it sounds like DeWine is making a renewed push for the measures.
Ultimately, DeWine signed the measure saying “about half the states now have this provision. And this is, I think, consistent with the United States Constitution.”
When asked about the bill, DeWine pivoted to other measures that he believes would have a direct impact on reducing gun violence.
He mentioned legislation that would give a judge the ability to put a repeat violent offender in prison for up to ten years if they are found in illegal possession of a firearm.
DeWine says that measure, along with increased funding for police departments and law enforcement training, can increase public safety.
“People across the board, Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals should be for all of these things,” says DeWine.
Some of DeWine’s ideas aren’t bad, including increasing the sentences for repeat violent offenders. Others, however, have rightfully met with a great deal of skepticism on the part of Republicans and 2A advocates. That would include a background check process for private sales of firearms that could create new legal liabilities for gun owners.
Ohio’s 88 county sheriff’s offices currently issue concealed carry licenses. The STRONG Ohio bill will expand the authority of each sheriff’s office to work in partnership with DPS to conduct background checks for private gun sales upon request. This process will be an effective and efficient method to conduct meaningful background checks for potential firearms sales.
When a private seller recognizes that a background check is needed (such as in cases where the seller is not familiar with the buyer’s background) the purchaser will visit their county sheriff’s office for a state-level background check. This background check would instantly be conducted for a small fee. Those whose background checks show that they are legally permitted to purchase a gun will then receive a “seller’s protection certificate” from DPS. The document, paired with photo identification, can be presented to the private seller to certify that the purchaser is not prohibited from purchasing a gun. Each certificate will be valid for 90 days and can be used for multiple purchases. In cases where the background check reveals that the purchaser is under a weapons disability, the private seller would be expected to decline the gun sale or face enhanced penalties for an illegal transaction.
I don’t know how many gun owners would actually go through this process before selling one of their firearms, but DeWine’s bill tries to incentivize the use of the “seller’s protection certificate” by making anyone who possess one immune from civil liability if they sell a firearm to someone who is actually a prohibited person. The flip side of that, of course, is that if you sell a firearm to someone who does turn out to be prohibited from lawfully owning a gun and you don’t have a “seller’s protection certificate,” you’ve now opened yourself up to all kinds of legal liability.
Even though going through this burdensome process for private, third-party sales would nominally be voluntary, in practice gun owners would be placing themselves in legal jeopardy if they didn’t acquire a certificate from their county sheriff beforehand.
That’s a non-starter for me, and for a lot of Republican lawmakers in Ohio as well, apparently. Still, if pro-2A lawmakers were to break up DeWine’s STRONG Ohio package into separate pieces of legislation, they could probably find support for the proposals that are actually focused on the criminal misuse of firearms and not on imposing new restrictions or rules on legal gun owners. There are also several other pro-2A bills still pending in the legislature, so DeWine may try to do some political horsetrading now that he’s followed through on his pledge to sign Constitutional Carry. One thing is certain; while the biggest 2A bill of the session is now the law of the land, the debate over the right to keep and bear arms is going to continue in Columbus.