If Gov. DeWine truly wants to curb repeat offenders with guns, he should start here

Governor Mike DeWine is back on the campaign trail, so to speak, stumping for his so-called STRONG Ohio gun control proposals. DeWine prefers to talk about the parts of the bill which he hopes will be most palatable to voters - namely increasing penalties for possession of weapons by repeat offenders.

As we observed in our legal analysis of DeWine's plan, these proposals would raise weapons possession penalties so that they are on par with murder and rape. As we noted:

DeWine's proposal increases the penalty for the possession of weapons while under disability from a third degree felony (F3) to a second degree felony (F2) for first time offenders, and increases the penalty from a third degree felony (F3) to a first degree felony (F1) for second and repeat offenders.

In our view, these penalties are extreme and unfair. This is a huge step up in prison time and appears grossly disproportionate related to other F1 and F2 crimes. Consider that first degree felonies include the most serious crimes, such as murder and rape, and that this penalty increase is for mere possession of a firearm by a person under disability.

Implementation of these types of sentencing schemes have been consistently proven ineffective and serve only to unjustly punish otherwise law-abiding citizens, who often times are unaware that they are under a disability. We therefore oppose these increases in penalties.

As we have pointed out repeatedly, the problem is not a lack of laws, the problem is a lack of enforcement of those laws. And a recent quadruple shooting in Cincinnati makes our case yet again.

From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

At the time of a quadruple shooting on Saturday, one of the suspected gunmen was out of jail on bond in a weapons case.


Darius Harris, 19, has been charged in connection with the Westwood shooting that hospitalized a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old.


Two months earlier, in April, he was arrested after police said he was carrying a loaded 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun in a car.

Harris was initially charged with receiving stolen property, improper handling of firearms in a motor vehicle, carrying concealed weapons and having weapons under disability – a crime that typically means the person has been convicted of serious prior offenses.

The night of that arrest the Pretrial Services Division of the court, which examines the nature of the charges and past of the offender, recommended a $91,000 bond for the offenses, officials at the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Office said Wednesday. This proposed bond was signed by Municipal Court Judge Michael Peck.

Harris was held in jail overnight and appeared before Peck the following morning, officials said. After that proceeding, Peck decided Harris should be released to await trial at home without the need for a cash bond – in Ohio, this is called an OR bond, standing for "released on own recognizance."

The article goes on to quote Cincinnati police union president Dan Hils as saying there have been many cases in which low bonds or "inadequate sentences" have allowed violent people to continue causing harm.

"It's quite destructive to what the police department is trying to do with bringing down gun violence," Hils told The Enquirer. "The other side of the justice system, the courts, the jails and prisons, are dropping the ball," Hils said. "Collectively they have blood on their hands. I'm not just talking about this case."

According to the report, in the past 30 days in Hamilton County, 22 people have been charged with the exact charges in Harris's April case: carrying concealed weapons and improperly handling weapons in a vehicle. The Enquirer notes that those who were charged with those charges and additional charges were not counted.

Of those 22 people, eight were released on OR bonds, eight had bonds of $5,000 and below (of which they had to pay 10%), one had to pay 10% of $10,000 and one had to pay 10% of $15,000.

The remaining four people had a bond of $20,000 of which they had to pay 10%.

In other words, no one facing the exact charges Harris faced was required to pay more than $2,000 upfront to secure their release from jail to await trial.

What's worse, The Enquirer has discovered that victims in Harris' attack aren't even the first in the past few months.

There have been two recent cases in which men who were out on bond have been charged with killing people.

In December, Jaeron Pope was arrested in the death of Darious Dickey. About 10 months earlier, he had been arrested in connection with a separate shooting and was released from jail after posting 10% of a $75,000 bond.

Carl Godfrey faces multiple murder charges in a killing spree in late January and early February involving several other people. When those killings occurred, he was out on bond after posting $200,000 on cases related to two 2019 shootings.

This kind of lack of enforcement of existing gun laws shows exactly why passing still more laws or increasing penalties is not going to have the effect on crime that DeWine claims.

This problem has been on full display in Ohio cities for many years. In the past two decades, leaders in the cities of Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo have all claimed they just had to have new gun control laws in place in order to combat crime in their cities. Yet investigations showed that when the laws were put in place, they were rarely if ever enforced (see here and here and here).

There should be no more talk of new laws which will only punish the law-abiding. Instead, those who are truly seeking to make a difference should focus their efforts on ensuring that government entities fairly, consistently, and regularly use the crime-fighting tools they already have.

Chad D. Baus served as Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary from 2013-2019, and continues to serve on the Board of Directors. He is co-founder of BFA-PAC, and served as its Vice Chairman for 15 years. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website, and is also an NRA-certified firearms instructor.

Related Article:

Dispatch editorial: "Gun laws pointless if not enforced"

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