Deadly export

Ohio has become a conduit for illegal gun trafficking, while lawmakers push for even more lax gun laws


Ohio has become a leading exporter of crime guns. Federal data released last week shows that Ohio is a top source for guns used in crimes around the country.

Not coincidentally, Ohio’s gun laws are among the nation’s weakest, earning a “D” grade from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a nonprofit advocacy group that says Ohio has been the top interstate supplier of guns used in crimes in Michigan.

More than 1,600 guns were legally purchased in Ohio last year and then linked to crimes, including robbery and homicide, in 36 others states, according to a Columbus Dispatch analysis of data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Some of these guns were initially bought at one of Ohio’s many gun shows, where private sellers aren’t required to conduct background checks and people can buy an unlimited number of guns — no questions asked.

The Dispatch cited a former Columbus police officer who illegally sold 500 guns at gun shows and from the trunk of his car in 2005. One gun was linked to a triple homicide in Baltimore; another was found next to a body in the backseat of a car in New Jersey.

Ohio has become a conduit for illegal gun trafficking. You wouldn’t know it, though, by listening to Ohio legislators, who continue to try to further eviscerate Ohio’s lax gun laws.

Two Ohio lawmakers even want to make it illegal in the state for agencies to enforce any new federal gun bans or registries.

Senate Bill 36, introduced in February, proposes first-degree felony charges for agents attempting to enforce new regulations, and it would bar the state from adopting new firearm bans or registries.

By proposing to usurp the authority of federal law, the bill is patently unconstitutional and unenforceable. Still, it reveals how extreme the pro-gun lobby can get in Ohio. Wacky and irrational arguments also drove the passage of a 2011 law that allows concealed-carry permit holders to bring weapons into bars and nightclubs.

Further eroding Ohio’s gun-control laws would aggravate the problem of gun violence here and elsewhere.

Ohio fails to track who buys guns, and it has no direct statute outlining gun trafficking as a crime. Instead, prosecutors rely on procedural violations, such as falsifying forms.

Moreover, the state allows people convicted of violent misdemeanors, such as domestic abuse, to purchase firearms. Worse, the state imposes no limits on how many guns someone can buy. Imposing such a limit, creating a tracking system, and enacting a specific statute for gun trafficking or straw purchases are three important reforms state politicians should consider.

With federal gun-control legislation stymied, and no national register showing who owns a gun at a given time, state lawmakers should pick up the slack by approving reasonable laws to curb gun trafficking.

Exporting crime guns is nothing for Ohio to tout. At the very least, new data showing that Ohio guns are ending up at crime scenes nationwide should put a trigger lock on any new legislation that makes Ohio’s gun laws even more lax.