COLUMBUS — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine Tuesday announced a series of legislative reforms to address gun violence and outlined further action to increase mental health prevention, identification, and treatment to better protect Ohioans.
The announcement comes two days after touring the Oregon District in Dayton — where a mass shooting took place early in the morning Aug. 3 — and after participating in a prayer vigil in the same place.
“As Fran and I climbed up to the platform and looked out, there were people as far as the eye could see,” DeWine said. “Some in the crowd were angry — and I understand that anger, in fact, Fran and I are angry as well, for it is impossible to make sense out of the senseless. Some chanted, ‘do something’ — and they were right. It is time to do something, and that is exactly what we are going to do.”
The DeWine administration said the reforms will help get guns out of the hands of people who should not have them under the law while protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens who are entitled to the right to bear arms and will help prevent and treat those struggling with mental illness.
The proposals include:
— DeWine is asking the legislature to pass a law to allow courts to issue safety protection orders which would remove firearms from potentially dangerous individuals and get them the mental health treatment they need all while maintaining an individual’s right to due process.
— During the past several years, Ohio’s state psychiatric hospitals have become predominantly used by patients who are court-ordered there for restoration to competency to stand trial. This week 79 percent of the adults in state psychiatric hospitals are under court order. The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) is working to create a process where courts and community-based providers can work together to restore competency for those to stand trial in an outpatient setting which will free more hospital beds and decrease wait time for admission. The Ohio General Assembly will need to pass legislation to create this community-based misdemeanor competency restoration process.
— As part of the 2019-2020 biennium operating budget, the state is investing $675 million in wrap-around services for schools to design individualized programs, working with local mental health providers or social service organizations, to address the social and emotional challenges our students face.
— The Ohio Department of Medicaid is investing $15 million in telehealth mental health services to students, so no matter where a child lives, they have access to high-quality mental health care.
— OhioMHAS will be working with communities to increase knowledge of risk factors, help parents identify when their child is showing warning signs of a mental illness. The department will share screening tools with clinicians and help connect community-based services to link parents, families, and schools with proven supports and strategies to manage a child’s wellness over the child’s lifetime.
— Passing a law requiring background checks for all firearms sales in the state of Ohio with certain limited, reasonable exceptions, including gifts between family members.
— Asking the General Assembly to increase penalties on felons who illegally possess or use guns; increase penalties for violent felons and other people found with a gun they do not have the legal right to possess; and increase penalties for people who commit felonies while possessing firearms.
— Passing law that increases the penalty for those who commit a felony while brandishing a firearm to a mandatory three- to five-year sentence.
— Increased penalties for straw purchases — the acts of purchasing guns for or giving guns to another individual, which are currently illegal under Ohio and federal law.
— Ohio should increase the penalty for a person who possesses a firearm that they know was obtained through an illegal or fraudulent purchase in order to avoid a federal background check.
— Increase the penalty for improperly providing a firearm to a minor.
— The DeWine administration is expanding the state’s school safety tip line, where kids and adults can call or text anonymously to 844-723-3764 with tips about potential school violence.
— The Hub at the Ohio Department of Public Safety is expanding its ability to monitor and track potential threats on social media and will share that information with local school and local law enforcement.
— The operating budget provides nearly $9 million to help harden soft targets like non-profits and religious organizations to make their facilities more secure.
Working closely with Sandy Hook Promise, Ohio’s schools are implementing their “Know the Signs” safety program across the state. This program equips school staff with knowledge and skills to identify potential threats of violent action and take steps to intervene. There are 23 training dates already scheduled.
“I believe these proposals fulfill three important requirements. They can pass the legislature, they make meaningful progress toward safer communities, and they are Constitutional. Passing them won’t be easy, but this is the right thing to do and this is the right time to do it,” DeWine said. “We can pull together to do meaningful things to protect lives. It won’t be easy, but I believe in this state, and I believe in our people.”