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Mahoning prosecutor rejects assault weapon ban

Published: Sat, March 23, 2013 @ 12:09 a.m.

By David Skolnick



An organization touting stronger gun-safety laws — including criminal background checks on all gun sales and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines — met with hesitation and opposition from an unlikely source.

That unlikely source was Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains, who was asked by officials with the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, part of the national left-leaning States United to Prevent Gun Violence, to speak in support of its agenda on gun control Friday.

“I’m a gun owner, and I don’t oppose the ownership of an assault weapon” by law-abiding citizens, Gains said.

As for background checks, Gains said, “I’m not sure background checks can be done.”

The checks are “necessary,” he said, and how they would be conducted is up to Congress.

“I also realize that criminals intent on securing a firearm will do so regardless of the existence of a background check,” Gains said.

Background checks aren’t needed for private sales, purchases at gun shows or on the Internet, said Seth Bringman, spokesman for the coalition, which is lobbying to enact those checks into law.

Gains, a Democrat who’s served as county prosecutor since January 1997, was the victim of an organized- crime hit in December 1996. He was shot once and survived when a gunman’s weapon jammed.

Stricter gun laws have been at the forefront of a national conversation since the Dec. 14 tragedy at a school in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six adults dead. President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has called for expanding criminal background checks and a ban on assault weapons, which were banned by Congress between 1994 and 2004.

The U.S. Senate will vote next week on a gun-violence bill that doesn’t include a ban on assault weapons. The National Rifle Association is a strong opponent against any weapons restrictions.

“We definitely feel gun violence is a big problem, and the president agrees,” said Nelson Devezin, a coalition organizer. “We’d like to push the president’s agenda on this.”

State Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, spoke at Friday’s press conference, urging Congress to close the background-check loopholes and ban assault weapons.

“I wonder sometimes why anyone needs an assault weapon,” he said. “My neighbors don’t need assault weapons to hunt deer.”

Gerberry added: “I really respect the Second Amendment and believe law-abiding citizens have the right to keep and bear arms. I’m against gun violence in America. We have a serious problem.”

Gerberry agreed with Gains that changes to background checks are “extremely technical. There are some issues that need to be addressed. It’s a problem, but it’s not a reason to not attempt to do it.”

An email about Friday’s event said the two elected officials would be joined by community members, but except for Devezin, no one else was there. Also, organizers wanted Gains and Gerberry to single out U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican. Before speaking, Gains said he had no interest in talking about Portman.

But Gains called on the state Legislature to stiffen the penalties for those who commit crimes while in the possession of a firearm.

Currently, those convicted of possessing a gun while committing a crime can be eligible for probation, he said. The typical prison sentence for those found guilty of that crime is three years and five years if they’re in a vehicle, he said.

Gains wants to increase that penalty to a minimum of eight years in prison.

“Not one law-abiding NRA member or anyone else would object to” that proposal, he said.

Later, Gains said that increasing the penalty would make some people think twice about committing a crime.


12ndamendment(21 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Good thing assault weapons are already banned and need a special licence to get them. Gerberry needs to learn what an assault weapon is. Paul Gains got it right. one of the very few Democrats that do.

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2Photoman(1248 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

It appears that Mr. Gains' stance was taken only after he read of a likely vote outcome in D.C. I saw nothing in the Vindicator earlier on about his position.

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3dmacker(536 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Paul Gains is right on in his thinking about what needs to be done to control gun violence.
I applaude him for not simply echoing the party line and the drum beat of this administration for new gun laws that would not solve the problem nor have prevented the recent tragedies.
Enforcing current gun laws with mandatory sentencing as well as improving the mental health system to identify and treat those who pose a danger to themselves or the public is the only thing that will work.
Paul Gains has been a victim of gun violence and he has the right plans to solve the problem of gun violence by criminals who use guns to commit crime.
Thank you Paul.

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4glbtactivist(321 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

shame on Paul Gains for sellling out to a handful of tea party wackos when the vast majority of real Americans strongly support a ban on assault weapons. America is not the place where murder by gun is acceptable.

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5Woody2(26 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

I'm confused with Gains position on background checks. The story quotes him as saying “I’m not sure background checks can be done.” but then adds that he says that background checks are "necessary".

With regards to sentencing, doesn't he approve his assistant's plea agreements? He may want to blame the judges for sentencing, but Gains is also complicit when his office drops charges to get an easier conviction.

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6Normac1945(23 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

The gains solution to the problem of mass slaughter by assault type weapons is longer jail sentences?
How does that work with the suicidal gunman, who doesn't seem to care about his life?

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7DSquared(1788 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

God bless Mr Gains and his use of common sense that the Good Lord gave him. Ask Mr. Gerberry if he "needs" to eat 5000 calories a day, or "needs" to own a car that goes 120 mph, or "needs" to live in such a large house. GET IT!!!

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8Billweaver480(62 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Woody, I believe that Mr. Gains is questioning how a private seller can do a background check like the dealers do.

Gun bans will not stop criminals from getting guns.

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9excel(1307 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

To end gun violence we need to do a house to house search and confiscate them all. Only the police and the military need to be armed.

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10JoeFromHubbard(1806 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago


A bit radical, don't you think?

Cars cause violent deaths, want to try to take mine away?

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11NoBS(2826 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

glbt, sorry to disappoint you by injecting a fact or two into your diatribe, but the "vast majority" of Americans do NOT "strongly support a ban on assault weapons." The term "assault weapon" doesn't even describe an actual weapon. It is nothing but a mumbo-jumbo term made up by timid blissninnies who are afraid of inanimate objects. Another poster, excel, falls into that category as well. "Assault weapons" is a made-up term for any weapon that looks scary to the hopelessly uninformed.

And HOORAY for Paul Gains. I'm glad he had the nerve to stand up for what's right.

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12Woody2(26 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Billweaver, Gains should check and see how CA has been doing it for years, "California licensed firearms dealers are required to process private party transfers upon request. Firearms dealers may charge a fee not to exceed $10 per firearm." -CA DOJ
Several other states have required background checks for private sales at gunshows (RI, CT, OR, NY, IL, CO).

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13Bigben(1996 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Woody we don't live in (RI, CT, OR, NY, IL, CO). Just because another state has done something doesn't mean all the states have to follow them.

Thumbs up for Mr Gains thus far on opposition to banning.

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14Woody2(26 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Gains said he's not sure background check CAN be done. Perhaps he is not aware that background checks are being done already in Ohio. But just in case he really meant to say that he's not sure that background check could be done at gun shows, I point out that there are at least seven other states that can and do.

I'm actually more concerned about his role is in approving plea bargains, effectively reducing the ability to sentence. Judges should not be given a pass on responsibility for returning criminals to the street. But judges can only sentence on charges that are prosecuted.

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