COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and his administration have decided against pursuing red flag laws and instead are proposing to change the state’s pink slip laws to allow the forced hospitalization of people suffering from drug addiction and alcoholism. Someone who has been “pink slipped” would not be able to legally access firearms.
In a news conference Monday afternoon, DeWine said that his Ohio Strong plan helps individuals who pose a danger to themselves and others, but also protects the Second Amendment rights of Ohioans. The plan would have to be passed by both chambers of the Ohio state legislature; the primary sponsor will be Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said that the DeWine administration initially sought ways to craft a red flag law that did not violate gun rights or due process rights, but that they concluded that this was not possible. A red flag law allows a judge to order the temporary confiscation of firearms from law enforcement if the person is deemed a threat to himself or others.
After conversations with law enforcement, health experts and Second Amendment groups, Husted said that the administration decided that working within the current pink slip laws was the best way to protect gun rights and reduce gun violence. The pink slip laws allow a person with a mental illness to be involuntarily committed to a hospital. Husted said the new legislation would expand the mental illness classification to include those addicted to drugs and suffering from alcoholism, which he said could lead them to violence.
Current law orders these people into treatment and prohibits them from accessing a firearm, but does not include a provision to forcibly remove firearms from the homes of a person who has been pink slipped. Under the Ohio Strong changes, a person who is pink slipped will be required to sell his weapons or give them to a trusted person; if they do not, then law enforcement will temporarily confiscate the weapons, until that person can again legally possess them.
“This is just common sense,” Husted said, adding that the law would immediately separate the person from having access to weapons, and unlike red flag laws, it will give them the mental health support that they need.
Husted also announced that the proposed legislation would not include universal background checks, which the administration had considered. Currently, private, non-licensed sellers are not required to conduct background checks on sales; this is often referred to as the “gun show loophole.” Although the Ohio Strong plan will not mandate private sellers to conduct background checks, it will create an easier means for a private seller to do so if he chooses to.
A person may voluntarily go to the sheriff’s office to have a background check conducted for a private sale. If the person passes a background check, the seller will receive a seller protection certificate, which they can present as proof that they conducted a legal sale. Husted said that private sellers will have an incentive to have this proof because it will now be harder to claim ignorance if a person sells to someone who cannot legally own a firearm. If a person conducts an illegal sale, they can be convicted of a felony and be sentenced to up to three years in prison.
Some other measures that the state Legislature is considering include raising the age of purchasing long guns, increasing penalties for gun crimes and monitoring social media.