by J.D. Davidson
Two of Ohio’s largest cities announced a lawsuit against the Ohio Attorney General’s office, claiming the state fails to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
In a news conference Monday, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said gaps in the state’s background check databases allowed thousands of people to buy guns who should not have been able to because of criminal convictions.
“The country has seen a spike in violence, and Columbus has not been immune,” Ginther said. “Roughly 70% of homicides in Columbus are committed with firearms, usually firearms that are illegally obtained. We should all be deeply concerned that background checks may be failing to keep firearms out of the hands of violent offenders, putting our residents in a dangerous position. We cannot and will not tolerate it.”
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost did not respond Monday afternoon to the lawsuit.
According to a news release from Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein, the lawsuit is the first of its kind asking for the court to resolve the issue. The cities want a court order directing the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, part of the Attorney General’s Office, to take prompt corrective action.
The lawsuit says a 2018 survey commissioned by former Gov. John Kasich showed the state receives and collects all criminal disposition information from only 60% of the elected clerks of court.
The lawsuit also claims the gaps in criminal conviction reporting is just one of the problems with the state’s background check system. It also says there are “massive” gaps in the reporting of outstanding arrest warrants and of court findings of mental illness or commitments to mental health facilities.
“The records missing from our background check system create unacceptable risks to public safety,” Whaley said. “There are clear steps that officials can take to address these issues, and the public has waited too long already. It’s past time to fix these dangerous problems.”
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has spent the better part of the year campaigning against gun violence, often using his twice-weekly COVID-19 news conference to push the legislature into action.
Following last year’s mass shooting in Dayton, DeWine proposed a plan he said would curb gun violence. His plans increase penalties for someone who provides a gun to someone not legally allowed to have one. They also require certain protection orders and arrest warrants be included in the state and federal databases to help with background checks.
The Ohio General Assembly has not acted on his proposals.
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. Davidson is a regional editor for The Center Square.
Photo “Andrew Ginther” by Andrew Ginther. Photo “Nan Whaley” by Daniel E. Cleary. CC BY-SA 4.0.