Our Outreach to Gov. DeWine About His "STRONG Ohio" Bill
Editorial Note: The letter below was sent several weeks ago. No response has been received.
February 24, 2020
The Honorable Mike DeWine
Governor of Ohio
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street,
Columbus, OH 43215-6117
Dear Governor DeWine,
On behalf of God Before Guns, a multi-faith coalition working to reduce gun violence, I am writing to inquire about your intentions concerning gun related legislation.
We are taking a close look at Senate Bill 221 which we understand to be your “STRONG Ohio” proposal to reduce gun violence in Ohio.
Like other gun violence prevention (GVP) groups in Ohio we were heartened by your promise of strong action in the wake of the Dayton shootings last August. And like other GVP groups we were very disappointed that your ultimate proposals fell well short of the strong background checks and red flag legislation that we were led by your words to expect.
We appreciate that you reached out to gun rights advocates as you formulated your proposals. Soliciting their input and working to find common ground was an appropriate exercise. From what we have subsequently learned, however, neither Buckeye Firearms, Ohio Gun Owners, nor Ohioans for Concealed Carry support your bill. We certainly understand that these organizations do not speak for all Ohio gun owners and your point that you decided to propose a bill that goes only as far as you think the Assembly will allow is a logical (if not inspirational) approach.
We have looked carefully at the substance of your proposals in an effort to determine whether we should support SB 221. Again, we wish you had gone farther down the road of leadership toward measures like background checks and red flag protections that have a proven record in other states. Still, we find merit in the steps you propose, e.g. for more avenues to remove access to guns from persons who are a danger to themselves and others, to improve reporting of important information to the LEADS and NCIC systems, and to initiate a fledgling background checks system for the use of private gun sellers. For these reasons we can say we believe your proposed legislation can have a positive effect on gun violence in Ohio.
But that in itself does not convince us that SB 221 is a good bargain and worthy of our support. We are keenly aware of two other very dangerous bills looming in the 133rd Assembly. These are HB 178 (“constitutional carry”) and HB 381/SB 237 (“stand your ground”). Your past statements suggest that you would be willing to sign either or both of these bills if passed, and passage of both looks quite possible. We are also aware that you have called for SB 221 to be passed first and that you have not responded directly to questions about your intentions regarding the other two bills. These reports leave us suspicious that you may be willing to make a bargain that invites a good bill to be passed for a price of accepting or even supporting the passage of one or two horrendous bills as well.
We are convinced, based on evidence from other states, that HB 178 and HB 381/SB 237 are dangerous bills that will increase bloodshed in Ohio. We are well aware that (based on CDC data) Ohio’s gun related fatalities increased by 28% in just 5 years (2014-2018) and that our gun death rate increased by 27% over the same period. Using CDC data we find that Ohio’s gun death rate was below the national average in 2014 but is now 10% above the national average.
HB 178 will invite more incidents of armed confrontation in moments of stress and conflict. That has been the record in other states with similar laws. HB 381/SB 237 will invite persons without even minimal training and no background check to carry concealed firearms in public, and that is just one more step toward taking the responsibility out of “responsible gun ownership” and endangering public safety.
Passing SB 221 can have, in your words, “a significant impact on the safety of Ohioans.” But we believe any such progress will be more than negated if either HB 178 or HB 381/SB 237 is signed into law. While we can see passage of SB 221 as a step in the right direction, we see possible betrayal for those who support SB 221 if you are willing to sign or even remain neutral on HB 178 and HB 381/SB 237. At a time when Ohio has surged past most of the rest of the nation in gun violence this is no time to pass dangerous bills even if passage of SB 221 is included in the bargain.
We are unwilling to support such a bargain. Relative to saving the lives of Ohioans, these three bills are clearly in conflict. There is no middle ground or balancing act that can justify support of SB 221 along with “stand your ground” and “constitutional carry.”
Because these three bills are irreconcilable, we ask for your assurance that those who offer good faith support for HB 221 will not see that bill offered as a token of even-handedness to justify support for either HB 178 or HB 381/SB 237. We ask for your pledge that you will refuse to sign or support HB 178 and/or HB 381/SB 237.
With such an assurance from you God Before Guns can, in good faith, support SB 221 and encourage others to do the same.
We eagerly await your response.
God Before Guns