Ohio government considers action in response to gun violence


Abigail Lefton

DEMANDING CHANGE. Thousands of people line the streets for the Washington March for Our Lives on March 24. In multiple cities in Ohio, similar marches were held, many led by student activists. Ohio Governor John Kasich and some Ohio legislators have proposed ideas in response to gun violence though there has been no indication that these measures will be passed.

  Weeks of student-led rallies, walkouts, and lobbying for gun control have reached an all-time peak in the March for Our Lives in Washington and in cities around the globe, including Cincinnati, with hundreds of thousands of people marching in unity for gun control.

  Students have undoubtedly raised awareness and galvanized increasing support as well as forced some National Rifle Association (NRA)-supported government officials to consider their side. But there still remains much resistance.

  In Ohio, as in Congress, legislators who support gun rights control the body. Yet in the face of student activism and pressure, circumstances may appear to be changing.

  “I want kids to keep the pressure on politicians. It’s easy for this thing to kind of fade away,” said Ohio Governor John Kasich to a Columbus TV station.

  Kasich, once a strong advocate for gun rights, has adjusted his stance, now supporting some elements of gun control.

  He, along with a bipartisan task force, has recently touted a “common sense” gun control plan, suggesting multiple small changes to Ohio’s gun laws.

  The plan consists of six proposals, recommending that:

  • Ohio law contain penalties to force timely updates to the background check system, possibly in the form of withholding state money from courts that fail to do so.
  • There be a law that allows police to take an individual’s weapons if a court decides he or she poses a threat to the general safety of the public (Democrats in the Ohio legislature have already introduced this proposal but action has yet to be taken).
  • The illegality of armor-piercing ammunition, already a federal offense, be added to Ohio law.
  • The maximum prison sentence for buying a gun for someone barred from owning one be raised from 18 months to ten years, mirroring federal law (This would not affect people who buy a gun as a gift, adding another complication).
  • A person convicted of domestic violence or subject to a restraining order automatically lose the right to buy/own a gun, also mirroring federal law.
  • Bump stocks be regulated.

  However, the possible impact and effectiveness of these proposals remain unknown.

  And there are still many aspects of gun control that remain unaddressed, particularly the most controversial measures such as closing the loopholes on gun purchases.

  In fact, over 42 percent of U.S. gun owners obtained their most recent firearm without a background check.

  “We want to make sure that we can bring greater safety to the state but at the same time not frightening people who believe very strongly in their ability to practice the Second Amendment,” Kasich said in a new conference.

  This comes as gun-related deaths continue to rise, with 1524 Ohioans killed in 2016 alone, placing Ohio as the 25th state in the country for most gun-related deaths (38,658 were killed in the U.S. that same year).

Firearms Statistics

  • One of ten Ohioans has a loaded, unlocked weapon in a home with children, as found by the Ohio Health Issues Poll. The poll also found that the rate of gun ownership has increased from 36 to 42 percent in just four years.
  • The number of Ohioans who die from gun-related injuries has been increasing over the past ten years, with nearly 1500 killed in 2016.
  • The third-leading cause of death among children is homicide, mainly by guns.
  • Studies have also found that having guns at home increases the risk of violent death.

  Meanwhile, Republican legislators are focusing on “school safety,” recently passing a statute that allows school levies specifically for security measures and mental health treatment. The bill still awaits Kasich’s signature.

  Lawmakers are also working to provide money to pay for law enforcement officers at schools and to help schools wanting to arm teachers.

  Regardless of their views on gun control, though, there has been bipartisan effort to meet with student activists and hear their calls for change.

  One such legislator was Republican Senator Joe Uecker, who recently met with students at Walnut Hills High School, although they did not have the same perspective on gun control.

  “He took notes, and he listened. Safety in general is a universal value that we can all agree on, so we were just there to find some common ground,” said Emily Marmer, a senior at Walnut Hills to Cincinnati.com.