Ohio lawmakers must act to diminish gun violence


We aren’t surprised the Republican majorities in Congress and in the Ohio General Assembly won’t let Democrats make any headway in enacting sensible gun-control legislation. Fear of the politically powerful National Rifle Association has long paralyzed GOP lawmakers in Washington and Columbus.

But there could be light at the end of the long dark tunnel that has been legislative inertia on this issue.

In early March, Republican President Donald J. Trump met with federal lawmakers from both parties and made it clear he would take on the NRA to get national gun-control legislation enacted.

Trump called for a comprehensive law to expand background checks to weapons purchased at gun shows and the internet.

He also said guns must be kept out of the hands of mentally ill people, schools must be made secure, and there must be restrictions on the sale of guns to individuals.

According to the New York Times, Trump flatly insisted that legislation should raise the minimum age for buying rifles to 21 from 18 – an idea the NRA and many Republicans fiercely oppose.

It is noteworthy that the president enjoyed strong support from the association and its members during the 2016 election.

A month has passed since the well-publicized White House meeting, but there has been little to show for it on Capitol Hill, which brings us to Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich and the Republican controlled General Assembly.

Kasich, who will be leaving office at the end of the year, has asked the Legislature to enact six proposals designed to deal with the spate of mass killings, including the recent massacre of 17 students and educators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Kasich is urging state lawmakers to pass a package of measures that would: take guns away from people at risk of hurting themselves or others; keep guns away from those convicted of domestic violence; facilitate gun-violence protection orders; close some gaps in the background check system; strengthen the law against “straw man” gun purchases; and ban bump stocks and armor-piercing ammunition.

NO SLIPPERY SLOPE

Aware that the NRA and its members see any gun-control initiative as a step toward the end of gun ownership in this country, the governor made the following statement when he unveiled the six measures:

“No one is interested in some slippery slope in trying to go and grab everyone’s guns.”

The bump-stocks prohibition is similar to the one President Trump has proposed.

Another similarity is the bipartisan approach adopted by the Republican president and the Republican governor, who certainly aren’t political allies.

Kasich formed a bipartisan gun- policy advisory group after a sniper killed 58 people attending an open-air country music concert in Las Vegas.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, members of the group are: Ron Maag, former state representative; Tom Niehaus, former Ohio Senate president; Doug White, former state senator; Betty Montgomery, ex Ohio attorney general, and Deborah Pryce, former member of Congress, all Republicans; and Democrat Nina Turner, former state senator. The other two members are Toby Wagner, chief of law enforcement for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and Jim Tobin of the Catholic Conference of Ohio.

The group recommended the gun-control measures to the governor and will explore other initiatives, such as raising the minimum age to buy a firearm.

There is one issue that demands a public airing, but appears to be a nonstarter in Congress: a ban on assault weapons.

In reviewing Kasich’s record on guns, the Plain Dealer noted that he voted for the 1994 assault weapons ban when he was in Congress, but distanced himself from the vote when he ran for governor in 2010 and for president in 2016.

But now, with the governor urging the General Assembly to enact the package of gun ownership reforms, we believe the timing is right for his gun-policy advisory group to take on the issue of assault weapons.

There’s no reason weapons of mass destruction should be in the hands of ordinary citizens. For instance, the AR-15 has become the rifle of choice for killers of school children and other innocent Americans.

Gov. Kasich and members of his advisory group should listen to schoolchildren around the country who are demanding that Congress and state governments enact such a ban.

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