After carnage in Dayton, it’s time for Legislature to finally do something


The Plain Dealer: Too often when the unthinkable happens, when someone with a powerful firearm fells multiple folks just out for a fun evening, we may utter prayers or express horrified thoughts, but nothing else happens. Even if we speak of the need for change, too often we accept that – at least in Ohio – change won’t happen. Lawmakers in this state are too busy loosening gun laws, not tightening them, and pro-gun sentiments are strong.

But now cannot be one of those times.

Now we must do something.

After a 24-year-old, for unknown motives, killed his sister and eight others and wounded numerous others in Dayton in what CNN reports was just 30 seconds of high-powered rifle fire, it cannot be business as usual.

It cannot be the usual nothing.

NEWSPAPERS’ UNITED VOICE

The editorial boards of Ohio’s newspapers may have different thoughts about what should or must be done. But we do agree: Do something.

Do not assume that change cannot come. Believe that, with good will and determination, common-sense adjustments can be made. And believe that, if the Ohio legislature is not prepared to act, the people will. And that our elected representatives will hear the voice of the people – each one of us, the voters of this great state – and not just from the gun lobby.

That is why our editorial board supports a proposed Ohio ballot initiative to close gun-background-check loopholes in Ohio law. The initiative is being pushed by a group called Ohioans for Gun Safety; their ballot language was recently cleared by state authorities, so they can start collecting signatures on a proposed law-by-referendum they call “An Act to Close Loopholes in Background Checks on Gun Sales.”

The proposed law would require that all Ohio gun sales go through licensed federal firearm dealers, eliminating the so-called gun-show loophole. Federally licensed dealers must, by law, conduct background checks and keep records of sales.

Private sellers could still sell their firearms, but they would have to go through federally licensed dealers (the proposed law would require that the dealers charge only a reasonable administrative fee to facilitate the sale, and it also lets dealers say no to such a sale). A number of exceptions would apply for family transfers, antique gun sales, guns needed for hunting excursions or training and the like. It’s a reasonable and sensible approach to closing the gun-show loophole.

If petitioners gather enough signatures, the proposed law would go to the Ohio General Assembly for action. If the legislature doesn’t act, the group must then gather another set of signatures to get it on the ballot, either next year or in 2021. So there’ll be time to debate it, examine (and amend) its provisions, and hear from opponents. But we think the proposal is sound and merits support.

IMPACT OF DAYTON SHOOTINGS

Has Dayton changed things? We hope so. Too often at the Ohio Statehouse, politicians seem to think “gun control” is a nasty idea invented in cities like Cleveland. But people can die anywhere from gun violence. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, long an opponent of more stringent gun laws, is a devoted Daytonian. We hope that so much senseless loss of life in Dayton also is making Husted think about doing something.

Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday unveiled proposals to address gun violence and mental health issues. That’s doing something, too.

Also salient: The Ohio General Assembly has banned guns from the Ohio Statehouse (although not from parked cars in the Statehouse garage); that suggests state lawmakers are well aware of the dangers of gun violence – to themselves. What about the dangers to the electorate?

True, eliminating the gun-show loophole on background checks won’t end mass shootings. Far from it. In each of the recent cases – Gilroy, Calif.; El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio – the gunman acquired his weapons and ammo legally.

But ending the gun-show loophole will do something.

It will make it far harder to engage in regular gun sales without background checks. That alone will reduce the number of weapons sold under the table. It might slow down and potentially deter a would-be shooter. Both represent an important start in getting this nation’s out-of-control trafficking in high-powered weaponry under control – and in letting the people, not the gun lobby, determine the future direction of Ohio gun laws.

It is doing something, rather than nothing.

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