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Gov. Mike DeWine unveils gun legislation

Plan introduces voluntary background checks on sales, doesn’t include red flag laws

COLUMBUS — Gov. Mike DeWine chose not to back a red flag law or mandatory background checks for all gun sales, but received praise for his gun proposals from Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, who was by his side when he announced them.

Brown, a Democrat, was among a handful of people to speak Monday when DeWine, a Republican, unveiled his Strong Ohio plan at the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

“This plan is just one step bringing much-needed change to gun laws in Ohio,” Brown said.

DeWine and Brown have had numerous conversations in the past few months about various issues, including gun violence.

Brown said, “Mayors and police chiefs on the front line, we have a unique understanding of how gun violence impacts our communities. When there’s a shooting, the chief and the mayor get all the calls. We see firsthand the devastating impacts that gun violence has on the residents.”

DeWine’s proposal includes a voluntary background check for gun sales between private sellers, would increase penalties for those found with a gun while legally prohibited from having one, would increase penalties for selling guns to minors, and provide judges the ability to give stronger sentences to those convicted of felonies in which a gun was possessed or used.

DeWine chose not to support a red flag law — that would allow police and relatives to have guns taken from people who pose a threat to themselves or others — even though he said he backed a version of it after the August mass shooting in Dayton. Instead, he supports expanding pink slip laws allowing those with drug and alcohol problems to be separated from their guns while being evaluated by a doctor.

The governor also proposed allowing county sheriffs to do background checks for private gun sales upon request. The check is voluntary and not a requirement to buy or sell a private gun. Those whose background checks determine they are legally permitted to purchase a gun will get a “seller’s protection certificate” to show they aren’t prohibited from buying a gun.

Brown said DeWine’s proposals “will decrease gun violence overall by giving local authorities tools to hold accountable a small number of people who are typically responsible for gun-related crimes. We know who they are. We just need help to deal with them. Overall, most street-level gun violence in Ohio is committed with handguns that are typically stolen or illegally obtained by criminals who do not have a right to legally possess firearms.”

Brown said the proposal “will address violence by giving local judges discretion to impose longer sentences when it is likely that offenders will commit violent crimes after leaving custody. I see it too much — the same shooter, the same criminal over and over in our community. By giving local judges the power to keep most dangerous offenders in prison longer will undoubtedly save lives of the people who would otherwise be killed.”

DeWine said he believe the proposal “will pass” the General Assembly “and make a difference.”

He added that since he first discussed the gun laws, he’s met with legislators, Second Amendment groups, law enforcement, mayors and behavioral health officials.

“We heard their concerns and I believe that we have come up with better legislation as a result,” DeWine said.

House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron, said DeWine’s proposal “is weak. It is not what Ohioans want. More than 90 percent of Ohioans want more common sense gun safety, not watered-down proposals to appease the gun lobby.”

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