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Too Weak, Too Extreme: Lawmakers Take Aim At DeWine's Gun Proposals

Damian Dovarganes
Associated Press

Gov. Mike DeWine’s package of proposals to reduce gun violence through mental health and gun policy changes is getting mixed reviews from both Democrats and Republicans.

House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) said the governor’s “STRONG Ohio” plan is weak, especially since it doesn’t include required background checks. That’s something DeWine said early on he wanted, and which Democrats have been pushing for.

“It makes it much harder for people in our caucus to get behind something that we don’t quite see as legitimate and strong and what people have requested from us," Sykes said.

DeWine defended the decision to not expand mandatory background checks; instead, his plan creates a voluntary program for private gun sellers to check buyers’ backgrounds. He says while the bill wasn’t written by the gun lobby, he had to come up with something that would pass the Republican-dominated legislature.

“I live in the real world, and I’m here to get things done, and I will guarantee Ohioans that when we pass this bill, you will be safer,” DeWine said. “I cannot guarantee that we won’t have tragedies. But I can guarantee you that we will be a lot safer.”

The bill has plenty of critics among fellow Republicans, too. State Rep. John Becker (R-Cincinnati), a staunch gun rights advocate, said he was glad mandatory background checks didn’t make it into the bill. But he’s still concerned about this version of a red flag gun seizure law.

“You can’t be just taking away people’s property – and a firearm is property – unless there’s a very compelling state interest," Becker said.

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder said that House Republicans were reticent to support any measure that would reduce gun access.

DeWine said his bill, which expands upon the state’s existing “pink slipping” laws, protests police as well as the right to due process while getting people the help they need.

The bill will start in the Senate, where it’s expected to get a warmer reception and maybe even some changes.