Sunday, Jul 15, 2018
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Editorials

Modest gun reform needs backers

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Gov. John Kasich discusses the need to improve the speed and accuracy of the reporting of information about individuals prohibited under law from having a gun to a national background check database.

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Closing the gaps in the enforcement of a law that should keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of those not legally allowed to have them should hardly be seen as bold. But Gov. John Kasich’s executive order — signed the morning after a 29-year-old gunman was accused of killing four people in a Tennessee Waffle House with an AR-15 — is sadly more bold than the Ohio’s General Assembly seems willing to be on the issue of common sense gun reform.

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The suspect in the Tennessee shooting had his state firearms card revoked in his home state of Illinois after erratic behavior, including being arrested by Secret Service for refusing to leave a restricted area at the White House. Courts are supposed to report unstable people like him to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Gun dealers are required to check this system before selling firearms. But courts in Ohio, particularly small courts that convey the records on paper, too often do not keep up with the reporting. And that means the background-check system cannot do what it is supposed to do: Prevent dangerously unhinged people from acquiring new guns.

Mr. Kasich had proposed the review of how court systems in Ohio report data to background-check system as part of a package of bills aimed at reducing gun violence. The governor’s proposals also called for a red-flag provision that would allow judges to temporarily take weapons from unstable individuals and a ban on the sale of armor-piercing ammunition.

So far, the General Assembly has shown little interest in advancing the bills.

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These are modest measures that can improve public safety without infringing on Second Amendment rights. In the case of the background-check improvements, Mr. Kasich is merely ordering the state to study how so many Ohio courts have fallen months behind in complying with an existing law. This is not radical. It is pragmatic, common sense public administration — and long overdue.

Ohio has an opportunity to be a leader in reasonable gun reform measures. The governor is offering Ohio a responsible way forward. The General Assembly should show some spine and take it.

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