August 23, 2019

Oxford City Council urges Ohio to pass ‘red flag’ weapons law

Oxford City Council unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday, Aug. 20, urging the state legislature to enact the “red flag” gun restriction law proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine in the wake of the Aug. 4 shooting in Dayton, Ohio that left 10 dead and 27 injured.

Council has no authority to regulate gun ownership. The resolution is merely a recommendation to the legislature, which could pass such a law.

“Red flag” laws, also known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders, allow law enforcement to temporarily seize guns from those who could be a threat to themselves or others. Family members, police and mental health professionals can request such orders from the court, under DeWine’s proposal.

Gun-rights advocates fear that the bill will go against the due process rights of affected gun owners. However, DeWine’s proposal would allow such seizures only under an order granted by a judge.

Oxford Police Chief, John Jones said he supports the red flag proposal because current law is reactive and not preventative.

According to the Ohio Revised Code 2923.13 (having weapons while under disability), a person is not permitted to own a firearm if he or she is a fugitive, a felon, drug dependent, or has been declared mentally ill by the court system.

“Most of the people we're running into that's not the case,” Jones said. “They may just be having a mental breakdown, or they may have some mental issues. There are clear signs that they should probably, at least in that moment, not have access to firearms and we may remove the guns for safe-keeping and they go to a hospital to be seen.”

Within current firearm law, as soon as that individual is out of the hospital, he or she can get the firearms back.

“We don't really have any legal means to hold their guns,” Jones said.

City Councilor Chantel Raghu, who proposed the resolution Tuesday, told a story about a friend who went to a recent Cincinnati Reds baseball game and volunteered to stand behind his group “watching out” for the possibility of an active shooter.  

“That's not normal -- for us to be afraid to do our day to day activities,” said Raghu. ”It's not OK to be scared to drop your kids off at school.”

“When I think about school shootings specifically . . . about 93% of the time there was a warning, whether by their peers, or family members,” she said. “There is a black hole in law enforcement to be able to try to prevent that crisis from happening.”  

Her sentiment was echoed by Councilor Edna Southard at Tuesday’s meeting. “This is one step we can take, but there must be others,” Southard said.

Councilor David Prytherch concurred. “We cannot regulate guns locally, but we can lobby the legislature,” he said at the meeting.

Chief Jones addressed how people’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech can complicate the issue, when deciding who might pose a threat.

“A social media post that seems to make us uneasy is different than a direct threat,” Jones said. “That's why you have to take in the totality of the circumstances, and then we could do something about these red flags if there was a process to do so.” 

The red flag law was not the only proposal DeWine made. The governor also wants stronger background checks on people purchasing guns, wants social media to be monitored specifically in schools and he wants harsher penalties for those who purchase or sell a firearm illegally.

Ohio lawmakers are expected to consider DeWine's proposals in mid-September.