By Susan Tebben

Ohiocapitaljournal.com

Supporters of gun reform measures proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine said the legislation would be an important first step in curbing gun violence, but wouldn’t agree that universal background checks were a better solution.

The Committee for Government Oversight and Reform met Wednesday to hear proponent testimony as they review Senate Bill 221, which proposes stronger consequences for gun sales done without a background check, and allows gun buyers to obtain background checks themselves before buying a gun.

The bill also includes expanded regulations for temporary detainment of mentally ill individuals and those deemed alcohol or drug addicts.

Chris Kershner, of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke on the impact of a mass shooting in the city’s Oregon District that left nine people dead on Aug. 4. In supporting the bill, which was largely prompted by the shooting, Kershner said businesses in his area see safety as a top priority.

“These challenges are not unique to Dayton, but are echoed through the other 251 communities that have had similar shootings,” Kershner told the committee. “However, Ohio can be unique by providing for greater protections for all that live and work here.”

Walt Davis, of Lebanon, leads the Second Amendment Advocates Coalition, and said when the Dayton shooting occurred, he “feared the worst was coming” in the form of rifle bans and limits on magazines. But those fears were never realized.

“We were encouraged that, from the outset, the focus would be on the people … not the hardware,” Davis said.

None of the speakers would go so far as to say they approved of universal background checks, despite state Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Avondale, asking almost all testifiers if they would support an amendment that required them.

Thomas said he was weighing the proposal of amendments that would require universal background checks, along with reducing the size of ammunition magazines, raising the legal gun ownership age to 21 and specifically requiring a background check if a gun is transferred to another owner.

He and fellow committee member, state Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, expressed their concern that this bill would not do enough to protect Ohioans.

“It grieves me that my grandson who’s in first grade has to go through combat training (in school),” Fedor said.

State Sen. Hearcel F. Craig, D-Columbus asked most supporters if there was anything else they could do to reduce gun violence, and all had the same opinion.

“This is a start to giving us additional tools to help curb this violence,” said Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson, representing the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association.

Other supporters included representatives from religious organizations, the Ohio Crime Prevention Association, the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, along with elected officials and the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney.

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio. Read more Ohio Capital Journal stories at ohiocapitaljournal.com.

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