Gun crime bill to keep public safer

While crime in general has been on the decline in Ohio for some time, offenses involving firearms have been trending upward during the past few years. Much of that can be traced to the epidemic of illegal drugs in many communities, we suspect.

Ohio state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, thinks more needs to be done to deter gun crimes and to keep violent felons locked up. He has introduced a bill that would call for a mandatory 10-year prison term for anyone who uses a gun while committing a felony.

No doubt many legislators will be concerned about the proposal. One worry will be where to imprison those convicted under the proposal.

So maybe in addition to passing Cera’s bill, law enforcement agencies should look at what’s happening in Warren and examine the Ohio attorney general’s safe neighborhood initiative.

Last year was quite violent for Warren. Ten people, five by gunfire, were murdered in the city in 2013. Violent crime was commonplace. But a street crimes unit created by Police Chief Eric Merkle when he took office was just getting its feet wet, and not until December did Attorney General Mike DeWine bring his Safe Neighborhoods Inititative to Warren. The attorney general’s program links paroled criminals with law enforcement to show them the benefits of remaining crime free and preaching nonviolence to others.

This year, Warren made it to Monday night before recording a murder. In fact, it was the first serious injury this year caused by gunfire in the city.

We know that harsh winter weather may be a contributing factor in the absence of violent crime so far this year, but until proven otherwise we want to believe that the Street Crimes Unit and attorney general program are making a difference.

Cera is still right, though. By definition, those who use firearms to commit crimes are enormous threats to the public. Deterring them by the threat of stiffer prison sentences – and keeping those not deterred locked away from society – is important.

Cera’s bill would, if enacted, make Ohio safer. His fellow legislators should recognize that and approve the measure.