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Republicans once again propose bill to crack down on repeat gun crime offenders in Ohio

Guns are displayed at a gun store in Columbus, Ohio.
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
Guns are displayed at a gun store in Columbus, Ohio.

Two Ohio Republican lawmakers have proposed some new regulations related to guns – but not targeted at the weapons themselves, but people who have them but aren’t legally permitted to. Republican officials including Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine have talked about the idea before, but the sponsors are hoping to move it this time.

Rep. Josh Williams (R-Sylvania Twp.) said the majority of gun crime in Ohio is caused by a handful of repeat offenders who aren’t legally allowed to have guns.

“There's been some anecdotal evidence that it's not just the guns themselves that are the problem," Williams said. "It's the guns in the hands of the wrong people that are the problem.”

The bill from Williams and Rep. Bernard Willis (R-Springfield) ups the penalties for those banned from owning guns who possess them anyway.

Those who use them to commit violent crimes would face a second-degree felony, with a penalty of up to 12 years in prison. Those with previous convictions could get up to 17 years. Use of a fully automatic weapon could result in 10 years in prison for the first offense and 15 years for the second. The bill would also seal lower-level first-time felony convictions after five years to allow those offenders to legally have guns.  

DeWine talked about cracking down on repeat gun offenders in his State of the State speech, but he's suggested it for years, including when he was attorney general. A bill to do something similar was proposed by former Rep. Kyle Koehler in the last General Assembly but failed to move.

This bill has support from Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who said it’s different from past proposals.

“This represents a new take, a different kind of balancing," Yost said. "I'm actually kind of hopeful and optimistic that this bill might move forward because it doesn't target the law-abiding gun owners. It targets criminals who use guns.”

Democrats in the legislature have long pushed for tougher gun laws, but those have rarely gotten more than a single hearing.

Both the Buckeye Firearms Association and the 30-member bipartisan Ohio Mayors Alliance have signaled support for the bill. The positive reception from the mayors comes as several of them are part of a lawsuit challenging the state law that bans cities from enacting local legislation on guns.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.