Gov. Mike DeWine's "red-flag" law proposal has near-majority support in the Ohio Senate, but it's received a lukewarm reception in the House, a poll by six Ohio news organizations found.

The survey suggests that, in the wake of the Dayton mass shooting this month, the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature could be persuaded to pass its first "gun control" bill in years.

The bigger hurdle will be clearing the Ohio House.

"Do something" has become a rallying cry in Dayton since hundreds chanted it at DeWine during a vigil for the nine victims hours after the Aug. 4 shooting. Two days later, DeWine, a Republican, responded with a 17-point plan to reduce gun violence and bolster access to mental health services.

Many legislators, mostly Republicans, said they need to study the issue further before backing proposed solutions.

Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Cincinnati, compared the “do something” call to a mob yelling “lynch them!” and moving forward without testimony, deliberation and other parts of the legislative process.

“Mob rule doesn’t necessarily win and shouldn’t," Brinkman said. "It’s not measured. It’s just a hunt for the guilty.”

 

DeWine's plan

 

One of DeWine's proposals was to establish a "safety protection order" that could be granted by a court to remove guns from individuals deemed an "imminent" risk to themselves or others because of a mental health issue, alcoholism, drug dependency or criminal history.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have some sort of "red flag" or "extreme risk" law on the books, but they differ in who is eligible, how protective orders are granted and how they are enforced. President Donald Trump has said he supports such laws, and U.S. Senate Republicans plan to discuss a red-flag bill in the coming months.

 

What legislators say

 

Every member of the Ohio legislature was contacted last week by reporters from the Akron Beacon Journal, Canton Repository, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch, Dayton Daily News and Toledo Blade.

Lawmakers were asked whether they support DeWine's red-flag proposal and what they think is the most critical action the legislature can take to reduce mass shootings.

The poll received responses from 61 of 99 House members and 27 of 33 Senate members. All but one Democrat said they supported DeWine's proposal. Among Republicans, 10 said yes — though some said more tweaks are necessary — and 40 were either unsure or wanted to know more specifics about the legislation before weighing in.

Both GOP legislative leaders — Senate President Larry Obhof of Medina and House Speaker Larry Householder of Glenford — were noncommittal in their responses.

"I believe that Governor DeWine's proposal takes a more thorough and deliberate approach to preserving individuals' rights," Obhof said. "That being said, it is important to remember that this is the beginning of the legislative process, not the end. Most members have heard broad-based ideas but have not yet seen bill language."

DeWine has taken care to differentiate his proposal from his predecessor's. Former governor John Kasich proposed a red-flag law that would have allowed guns to be removed without a court hearing.

DeWine is proposing no guns are removed until an initial court hearing is held within three days of the request.

That small difference made a big difference for several Republican legislators who responded to the news organizations' poll. Republicans who said yes also said the law needs to protect individuals' Second Amendment rights and provide due process.

Rep. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Green Township in suburban Cincinnati, said he's a yes — with conditions: the order must come from probate court, only law enforcement or a prosecutor could bring a case and the accused must get his or her guns back at the expiration of the order without having to file an additional motion.

"People need to understand no law is going to be 100% effective and it is a grave mistake to think that because we pass a law everyone will be safe," Seitz said. "The challenge here is not to do something but to do something effective."

 

'Do something'

 

When asked an open-ended question about what is the most critical action the Ohio legislature can take next to reduce mass shootings, lawmakers were divided on party lines.

Republicans’ most frequent response was improvements to mental health treatment. Democrats pointed to background checks on more gun sales.

"It is making sure that mental illness is observed and talked about and treated much earlier in life," said Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls.

Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, also suggested focusing on mental health services, with special attention given to children.

"Too many children in our juvenile justice system are punished instead of offered help and mental health treatment," Yuko said. "We need more focus on intervention from an early age."

 

Other highlights

 

• Several Democrats in the Ohio House wanted to ban or limit assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Few members of the Ohio Senate — in either party — suggested that solution.

• Several House Democrats suggested improvements to how guns are stored and a couple wanted to restore cities’ ability to pass their own gun restrictions.

• A handful of Republican lawmakers said there was little legislators could do to stop gun violence.

• One Cincinnati-area Republican said the answer was more guns. "The best way to reduce mass shootings is to shoot back. Gun control is a fool’s errand,” said Rep. John Becker, R-Union Township in Clermont County.