DeWine pitches improvements to federal, Ohio background check system

By Todd DeFeo - The Center Square

COLUMBUS — Gov. Mike DeWine announced plans Wednesday to enhance the state and federal background check system, a move aimed at ensuring people who are barred from purchasing a firearm cannot do so.

The governor wants state lawmakers to mandate courts enter final domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault protection orders into Ohio’s Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS) and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) within 48 hours of their issuance.

Law enforcement agencies and courts in Ohio must submit case dispositions and some mental health adjudications to LEADS and NCIC. However, there is no requirement they enter arrest warrants or protection orders into the background check systems.

“Our state and national background check systems are only as good as the data they hold, yet a great deal of vital information on dangerous individuals is missing from these systems,” DeWine said in a statement. “This lapse creates a substantial risk to the public, to victims, and to law enforcement officers who unknowingly encounter wanted suspects.”

The proposal is part of DeWine’s STRONG Ohio initiative and the latest in a series of recommendations aimed at stemming gun violence in the Buckeye State. The push comes in the wake of an Aug. 4 mass shooting in Dayton.

Earlier this month, DeWine issued an executive order creating the Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC), a division dedicated to school safety. Under the initiative, intelligence analysts will monitor social media platforms and websites for threats of violence at schools across Ohio.

The current arrest warrant and protection order process is a paper one and needs to be converted to a digital process, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said during a news conference Wednesday.

“It will be more than a technology project,” Husted, who heads the InnovateOhio initiative, said. “It will require training and cooperation across the state.”

In May, the Ohio Governor’s Warrant Task Force detailed more than a dozen recommendations to improve the state’s system of issuing, prioritizing and serving arrest warrants statewide.

The task force estimated there are more than 500,000 open arrest warrants in Ohio. As of March 2019, less than half (217,052) were in LEADS, and less than 5 percent (18,117) were in NCIC.

By Todd DeFeo

The Center Square