No firm answers on firearms
It’s difficult to get a handle on what, if anything, state officials plan to propose to change the Ohio’s firearms laws and policies.
One thing is clear: GOP super majorities in the Ohio House and Senate aren’t going to support lopsided limits on gun purchasing or ownership.
Just a few weeks ago, they moved legislation to allow secured firearms to be stored in cars parked in the Statehouse garage, one provision in a larger bill that passed in the final days of the lame duck session. It’s hard to imagine Republican support for any measure that could infringe on the Second Amendment.
But as the national debate over gun rights rages, it’s also hard to imagine lawmakers and other state officials won’t make some effort to curb gun violence.
So far, no one is providing a very clear picture of potential proposals.
For example, Senate Democrats unveiled their legislative priorities last week. Among them, under the heading “Public Safety,” the minority caucus noted it would “promote safety in our schools and communities by placing limitations on assault weapons.”
The legislation will be carried by Sen. Shirley Smith, a Democrat from Cleveland who is supposed to meet with representatives of the National Rifle Association and other firearms advocates as she develops the language.
Otherwise, Senate Democrats were short on details about what the actual bill would do. Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney at one point told reporters he wouldn’t use the word limitations.
Legislative Republicans will unveil their legislative priorities in coming days.
And Gov. John Kasich has been very careful not to answer questions directly about assault weapons, shifting his answers instead to the topics of mental health and school safety.
On the former, his administration recently committed an additional $5 million for services to “children in crisis who have intensive needs,” or, as Kasich described it to reporters last week, “for planning for people who are potentially violent who have mental illness, which we have found consistent among the people who have carried out these horrible massacres.”
On the latter, Kasich said his administration continues to develop ideas for ensuring students’ safety while on school grounds.
Kasich summed up the firearms debate this way: “I don’t think it’s a partisan issue. I think it’s people who are concerned about what’s going to be effective and what’s not going to deprive law-abiding citizens of their Second Amendment rights. That’s what it gets down to. I don’t think anybody saying you look the other way, it’s just what would be effective.”
He added, “Everybody’s looking for what is the right way to respond to this ... there’s a long process there. It will be a process in the state of Ohio. But my focus is on what I consider to be the most serious part of this, which is a person who has violent tendencies who has nowhere to go and families have nowhere to go, and what can we do about school safety.”
Marc Kovac is The Vindicator’s Statehouse correspondent. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.