Gun Control Takes Center Stage in Ohio Senate Committee


COLUMBUS, Ohio – The State Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee, Chaired by State Senator Bill Coley (R-Liberty Township), had nothing but gun control on their agenda Tuesday. Multiple bills, sponsored by Democratic Senators Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) and Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland), in concert with Republican State Senator Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), were given sponsor testimony.

Senator Thomas had most of the bills on the agenda including Senate Bills 62, 63, 64, 65, 182 and 183. He did not speak about SBs 63 or 64.

Senate Bill 62 banned bump stocks while SB 65 would close the so-called gun show loophole by, “…regulat[ing] the transfer of firearms at a gun show.”

State Senator Kristina Roegner asked Thomas about SB 65 allowing her to give a firearm to a family member as a gift, but not to sell it. Thomas conceded that was a mistake. His intention was, “Yes, if I transfer a firearm, selling, giving away, whatever the case may be, to make sure the person receiving that gun meets all the requirements…yes, that person should be subject to a background check.”

Thomas joined with State Senator Peggy Lehner to sponsor Senate Bills 182 and 183.

SB 182 would raise the age of all firearms purchasers to 21. Currently Ohio law permits 18 to 20-year-olds to purchase “long guns” but requires a person to be twenty-one to buy a handgun.

Universal background checks would be required if SB 183 passes. This, like Thomas’ SB 65, is designed to eliminate unlicensed dealers and individual purchasers from avoiding the federal background check system known as NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System). Lehner noted the Dayton shooter purchased his firearms online, where background checks are not required.

Lehner and Thomas were asked if their legislation would save lives.

“If this law had been in place, the Dayton shooter would not have been able to get the weapon,” Lehner said. “He would have had to get it another way.”

Lehner teamed up with State Senator Sandra Williams for Senate Bill 184, the “red flag” bill. To introduce the bill, Lehner read the list of names of those who had been killed in Dayton and gave detailed information about each victim. “None of these people needed to die…I will never forget the horror of walking down the streets of the Oregon District and walking over bloodstains on the street…I can no longer stay on the sidelines of gun safety,” she said. “I’ve been there too long.”

Lehner and Williams openly called their legislation “red flag” while Governor Mike DeWine has gone to pains to avoid that term, calling that component in his plan “Safety Protection Orders.” However, Senator Lehner stated about their bill, “This is one of the items in the Governor’s proposal, red flags.”

Coley raised Constitutional issues concerning the Second and Fourth Amendments while other members noted that judges already have the authority to get an ex-parte order and permit a court to remove guns from a person’s home. Senator Matt Huffman asked, “My concern is the demand that we ‘do something,’ if we pass this bill, and it really is essentially the same thing we have in place, have we really ‘done something’?”

Near the end of the committee, Lehner, Williams, Huffman and Coley went back and forth about whether it would be better to have a person who’s deemed a danger to themselves or others confined for a short period of time to assess their mental health, or take away access to firearms. Coley and Huffman expressed concern that an unstable person left at home still had access to cars, baseball bats, knives and even their own hands to use as weapons.

Williams told the committee, “If we need to add more things, like a vehicle or a bat [to be taken away], we’re open to adding those things.”

On hand for the hearing was Linda Walker from Buckeye Firearms and a board member of the National Rifle Association. When asked if Buckeye Firearms supported any of the legislation being heard, she simply responded, “No.”

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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star.  Follow Beth on Twitter.  Email tips to [email protected].

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