Kasich Tries for Gun Reform in Ohio

By Jack Brownfield

Ohio Governor John Kasich has proposed a series of new gun control measures that he calls common sense in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. “We want to make sure that we can bring greater safety to the state, but at the same time not frightening people who believe very strongly in their ability to practice the Second Amendment,” Kasich said of his proposed changes. But the plan, which has won some support from both Democrats and Republicans, will need to pass through the Republican-controlled state legislature. It is still unclear where most members of the legislature stand on the proposal, but proponents hope it can pass with bipartisan support. Regardless of its success in Ohio the plan could be a model for common sense action on guns in states across the country.

The plan originated from a bipartisan working group on gun violence, and it shies away from more controversial ideas like raising the minimum age to purchase firearms. Instead, the proposal contains several suggestions to appeal to both sides of the aisle. First, Kasich hopes to update the background check system in Ohio. While his plan would not end the loopholes that are responsible for the estimated 42% of guns purchased without a background check, it would modernize the system with new technology and personnel. This would keep those who, based on current law, should get a background check from falling through the cracks. The plan would also let courts “red flag” potentially dangerous individuals and prevent them from buying weapons. This kind of law might have stopped the Parkland shooter, whose mother had repeatedly voiced her concerns to the police about her son’s behavior. If a court received credible complaints, they could restrict dangerous individuals’ right to buy a firearm while preserving due process.

Kasich’s proposal would also automatically ban people convicted for domestic violence from buying guns and increase the penalties for straw buyers. The latter, who purchase guns on behalf of someone else, currently face only 18 months in prison. The plan would raise the jail time to 10 years. Kasich also hopes to ban certain types of armor-piercing ammunition, which would bring the state in line with existing federal regulations. Finally, if the federal government does decide to ban bump stocks, the Ohio proposal would do the same on the state level. While there have been some mixed signals, President Trump has said he plans to ban these devices through an executive order.

While well-intentioned, is unclear how effective some of these ideas would be. Straw purchasers, for example, are already rarely prosecuted because of the time and expense needed to prove they knowingly bought a weapon for someone who could not legally do so themself. While raising the jail time for convicted straw purchasers might deter them, it is doubtful that prosecutors could really enforce the tougher laws without more resources. The same issue might prevent the domestic violence restrictions from having much effect, since they too are typically underenforced.

While it is too early to know how Kasich’s plan will fare in the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature, his ideas could provide a model for other states and the federal government. While many liberals would prefer to go further, perhaps by implementing universal background checks or banning assault weapons, these proposals are, for better or worse, politically impossible in many places. If they hope to actually pass legislation to reduce gun violence, a plan like Kasich’s that could draw bipartisan support might be a good first step. For Republicans, passing this kind of plan would show a willingness to consider the problem of gun violence in the United States. Regardless of one’s political views, it is clear that these changes alone would not come anywhere near solving the issue, but they are a reasonable, politically feasible starting point.

Jack is a sophomore in the College studying English and Government and writes about domestic social and cultural issues.

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