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Ohio Democrats move to ban semi-automatic weapons, GOP lawmakers sticking to their guns

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Ohio Democrats move to ban semi-automatic weapons, GOP lawmakers sticking to their guns

May 15, 2024 | 4:50 am ET
By Morgan Trau
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Ohio Democrats move to ban semi-automatic weapons, GOP lawmakers sticking to their guns
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Gun wall rack with rifles. Getty Images.

Ohio Democrats, without any success in recent years, continue to propose legislation to curb gun violence. The latest bill would ban “weapons of mass casualty,” or semi-automatic firearms that can or could be adapted to fire more than 31 rounds. Unsurprisingly, the Republicans are sticking to their guns.

The gunman who killed nine people, and later himself, in one of Ohio’s largest mass shootings, used a semi-automatic rifle. He had a 100-round magazine, firing off 41 shots into the Dayton crowd in 30 seconds, according to the FBI.

The 2019 tragedy has resulted in zero statewide legislative change in terms of gun safety.

“For weapons that spray multiple rounds at the same time, I think they belong on a battlefield,” Michelle Lee Heym, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action, said.

Heym is originally from Connecticut but moved in 2015, two and a half years after being traumatized when her daughters were on lockdown during the Sandy Hook massacre.

Then, four years later, she dealt with the fear of the Dayton shooting. Since then, she has gotten more involved in advocacy against gun violence.

She is supportive of House Bill 433, which would ban the use of “any mass casualty weapon,” defined in the bill as a semi-automatic firearm that is designed or specially adapted to fire more than 31 cartridges without reloading, other than a firearm chambering only .22 caliber short, long, or long-rifle cartridges.

“There is no reason to have guns equipped with magazines that can hold 50, 70, or even 100 rounds,” bill sponsor state Rep. Willis E. Blackshear Jr. (D-Dayton) said. “It’s time to take action and ban these weapons so that our communities can be safer.”

If enacted, anyone owning a “mass casualty weapon” could receive a fifth-degree felony — up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine.

There is a list of exceptions to who can possess the weapons, which includes law enforcement officers.

“I don’t think they understand how firearms work,” Rob Sexton with the Buckeye Firearms Association said.

This bill is a massive overreach, Sexton added.

“What House Bill 433 would actually do is ban the possession of a firearm unless the entire national firearms industry redoes its manufacturing practices to somehow ban their ability to accept magazines that are larger,” he said.

He thinks this bill infringes on both the Second Amendment and the free market. Responsible gun owners shouldn’t be punished due to people like the Dayton shooter, he added.

That being said, he isn’t worried about this bill moving forward. There continues to be no interest from Republican legislative leaders on any gun safety reform.

“Democrats should focus on enforcing existing laws against criminals rather than targeting law-abiding Ohioans by repeatedly trying to restrict or repeal the Second Amendment,” Senate President Matt Huffman’s spokesperson, John Fortney, said.

House Speaker Jason Stephens’ team confirmed he isn’t considering the bill, either.

“Speaker Stephens is a big supporter of the Second Amendment, and when it comes to legislation like this, the support in the House just isn’t there,” spokesperson Pat Melton said.

State Rep. Dani Isaacsohn (D-Cincinnati) explained that despite Democrats’ and some Republicans’ pleas for “common sense gun legislation,” the lawmakers have only passed bills loosening firearm regulations.

“We’re letting an extremist ideology hold us back from keeping people safe,” Isaacsohn said.

There are two major reasons for this, he said: gerrymandering and extremism.

“We don’t have proper representation,” the Democrat said. “The majority of elected officials in the majority party are, on some issues including this one, held captive by an extremist wing of the party.”

The lawmaker then referenced numerous different polls, all that show that Ohioans — and people in the United States — want stronger gun legislation.

In a nonpartisan statewide survey done in 2023 by USA TODAY Network/Suffolk University, about 90% of Ohioans supported mandatory background checks, and 75% wanted safe storage and red-flag laws. The nonpartisan Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health mirrored the results, adding that more than 70% of Americans want there to be a permit process for people to buy a gun. When it comes to party division, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 60% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats oppose the ability to carry concealed firearms without a permit.

Sexton said that the conservative lawmakers are just following the constitution, and this has nothing to do with the gun lobby’s impact.

“You can’t have a second amendment if you can’t get a gun,” Sexton said.

There is a solution if the lawmakers won’t listen to the people who want safety regulations, Heym responded.

“Maybe we’ll be able to get something like background checks on a ballot initiative,” Heym said.

This would result in lawsuits, Sexton has argued.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on X and Facebook.

This article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.