COLUMBUS — House Democrats pushed back Wednesday against legislative efforts to continue expanding the ability to carry firearms in Ohio, proposing a trio of “common sense” gun safety bills that, based on history, will struggle to gain support among majority Republicans.

Democrats rolled out bills that would require safe firearm storage from minors, a legal avenue to temporarily remove guns from someone deemed a danger, and expanded background checks for gun purchases.

Democrats highlighted sobering statistics regarding child gun deaths, including growing rates of suicides by gun of children age 14 and under.

“Make no mistake about this, we are facing a public health crisis,” said Rep. Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington. “We have an entire generation of kids who now fear being shot at school, in their neighborhoods, at concerts, at the movies or in their places of worship. They also fear losing a young friend to suicide or accidental injury because they had access to an unsecured gun.”

Rep. Adam Miller, D-Columbus, said a GOP-backed bill that would end current training and licensing requirements to carry concealed weapons would make communities unsafe and law enforcement unprotected.

“The uncertainty that this bill creates by defining weapons in the broadest, most irresponsible manner, is terrible,” he said. “We need responsible gun ownership, and we need laws that bring us all together.”

Democrats are pushing for a “red flag” law that would allow a family member or law enforcement to recommend to a judge that guns be temporarily taken from someone who is deemed a danger to himself or others.

Gov. Mike DeWine, said negotiations continue over a prospective red-flag bill. "We think we're close, but we're not there yet."

"My two goals are to have a bill that has due process so that all of us who support the Second Amendment can feel comfortable that no one's gun is going to be taken away without due process," DeWine said. "But, at the same time, I want it to be a bill that will actually have an impact."

The governor said he also will push to increase penalties for repeat violent offenders who use guns to commit crimes. DeWine wants to give judges discretion to tack on up to 11 more years on a repeat offender's prison sentence. "We know violent repeat offenders are a small number of the criminal element. We just need to go after them and lock them up," he said.

House Democrats also will push a safe-storage measure requiring that a firearm be locked away where it cannot be accessed by a minor. Sponsors pointed to the need to protect against school shootings and noted that studies show suicide attempts were far more successful when a gun was used, then via other methods.

Asked how they get Republicans on board with the proposals, Miller said it’s an effort to balance Second Amendment rights with reasonable regulation. “I’m very encouraged by hallways comments from my colleagues, including chairpersons and members of leadership on the other side.”

 

Dispatch reporter Randy Ludlow contributed to this story.