On August 4, 2019, a gunman in Dayton shot and killed nine people and injured 17 in a crowded nightclub district — in barely more than half a minute — using a semi-automatic AK-15-type assault weapon.
The shooting may not have attracted much national attention, since the El Paso Walmart shooting, which killed 17 and injured 17 more, occurred only a day earlier. But it did attract outcry in Ohio and Governor Mike DeWine went to Dayton the next day where he was greeted by shouts of “Do something!” He suggested that he would.
He did something all right, just not what the overwhelming majority of Ohioans were asking for. Back in late March, with the flourish of his pen, DeWine signed into law a bill increasing the chances that the next mass shooting in a grocery store or elementary school could happen in Ohio. The legislature passed and sent him a bill that eliminated training, background checks and licensing for concealed carry of guns. The bill takes effect next week, June 12.
The bill passed the House 58-36 with every Democrat and two Republicans voting against it (One Republican said it didn’t go far enough). It passed the Senate 24-9, along straight party lines. Now 23 states have permitless carry, or what rightwing gun nuts have misleadingly dubbed “constitutional carry.” In fact, given that the words “well-regulated militia” are in the Second Amendment, unconstitutional carry would seem more accurate. Even the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio spoke out against the bill.
Studies have found a connection between permitless carry and rates of homicide and violence with guns. Homicide has spiked across Ohio, with Cleveland, Dayton and Cincinnati now in the top 20 cities for homicide. (Chicago, to respond to Republicans who like to use it as a whipping boy, is #28.) Columbus had a record 204 homicides in 2021. And a larger percentage of those murders are carried out with guns than they were 20 years ago.
“Removing these responsible and reasonable precautions compromises the safety and security of our communities and law enforcement,” says House minority leader, Democrat Allison Russo. “SB 215 completely betrays Ohioans who have called time after time for commonsense gun safety legislation, not extreme bills that endanger the lives of our children and families. Republicans have made it crystal clear that they value the approval of the gun lobby more than the lives of Ohioans and the police officers who protect our communities every day.”
She is correct that the new law is in defiance of what an overwhelming majority of Ohioans — including gun owners — want. Ohioans are in favor of such measures as universal background checks and “red flag” measures that remove guns from people who have been violent or threatening.
But in a radically gerrymandered legislature such as Ohio’s, their votes are literally irrelevant. In drawing the districts to favor themselves, politicians have guaranteed that they will win, no matter what voters say. That means that what the voters want carries no weight with them — only what lobbyists and big money interests want. That makes for a legislature much more extreme than the state as a whole. And DeWine has shown time and time again that he’s intimidated by the legislature and unable to stand up to it. It’s alleged that when DeWine was in Congress, he had an F rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and favored an assault weapon ban. How times have changed — for the worse, as the slaughter goes on and on.