Ohio officials are pushing to strengthen the state and federal background check systems in an effort to stop people from getting guns when they have outstanding violent warrants.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday that he will be putting a proposal forward to the state’s general assembly to mandate that arrest warrants and protective orders must be put in the background check system moving forward.
"The state and federal background check systems are only as good as the information put into them," DeWine said.
The move comes three weeks after a deadly mass shooting in downtown Dayton left nine dead and dozens injured.
DeWine was initially criticized immediately after the shooting, when his first comments just hours after the tragedy were interrupted by calls from hecklers for the governor to "do something!"
On Aug. 6, two days after the shooting, he announced 17 measures aimed at curbing future shootings. He said that the latest proposal to strengthen background checks would be submitted to the state's general assembly along with the earlier measures.
He said many citizens would likely be surprised that those factors were not already required to be a part of the background check system.
"Tragically it is not," he said. "It is time for us to change that."
Examples of the violent criminal arrest warrants that are not currently required to be entered into the background check system in Ohio’s Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS) include domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault. The Ohio Warrant Task Force also identified and earlier this year recommended that warrants for 28 serious crimes – including murder, kidnapping, and rape – be entered into the LEADS and National Crime Information Center (NCIC) systems.
DeWine used an example of the deadly shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where the suspect’s history of domestic violence had not been entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), allowing him to purchase a firearm. That November 2017 shooting resulted in the deaths of 26 victims.
"When critical information is missing bad things happen," DeWine said.
The task force found that there were more than 500,000 open arrest warrants in the state but in March 2019, only 217,000 of those were in the state’s LEADS system, DeWine said at a news conference Wednesday. Of those 217,000, only 18,117 warrants were in the NCIC which is one of the systems that the FBI uses in conducting NICS background checks at the federal level.
"When a [gun] dealer calls NICS for a background check, they depend on that information... to be accurate and complete and when it is not the system is failing these business owners and certainly is failing the public as well," DeWine said at the news conference.
DeWine conceded that even with the changes to the background check system and the various other proposals that he has put forward in the wake of the Dayton shooting, it is impossible to say "that we will never have tragedies in the future, but what we can say is that each one will help. Each one will make Ohioans safer."
"We have to take a holistic approach. Each one of these things that we have talked about has been thought out," DeWine said.