Politics

Johnson: Gun Legislation is Not the Answer

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — Just before speaking to a room filled with young adult students at the New Castle School of Trades Wednesday morning, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, addressed recent shootings in Ohio and Texas, saying additional gun control legislation is not necessarily the answer.

“You can’t legislate evil out of the world,” Johnson said, explaining his recent opposition to HR 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which was introduced in January and passed by the House in February with a vote still pending in the Senate.

The legislation would establish new background check requirements for firearms transferred between private parties, such as unlicensed individuals and specifically prohibits firearm transfers between private parties unless a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer or importer first takes possession and conducts a background check.

“If they can use a gun, they will use a a knife, a machete or a bomb, or a vehicle or poison,” Johnson said of those intent on hurting others. 

Johnson opposed HR 8 because it was “restrictive” to Second Amendment rights, he said. “And, it would not solve the problem,” he continued, saying the legislation would not have prevented the shootings in either El Paso or Dayton.

On Aug. 3, a lone gunman killed 22 people and injured 26 at a Walmart in El Paso, with police charging Patrick Wood Crusius, 21, with capital murder. Just 13 hours later, nine were killed and 27 injured outside a Dayton bar, with suspected gunman 24-year-old Connor Stephen Betts killed by police within 32 seconds after he allegedly opened fire. His 22-year-old sister was among those killed.

Expressing his sympathy for the victims’ families in both incidents, Johnson said, “We get so focused on doing something for the sake of doing something when incidents like this occur that we forget our real focus should be on the victims and their families.”

However, the shootings prompted some of Johnson’s fellow Republicans to call for action. U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-10 Ohio, who represents Dayton, said in a tweet that he supports “restricting military style weapon sales, magazine limits, and red flag legislation.”

So-called “red flag” laws would help authorities “quickly identify” dangerous people and “remove their ability to harm others,” Turner said in a prepared statement. They would also help address early warning signs that are ignored before mass shootings, he said.

“I believe these are necessary steps forward in protecting our country and a testament to American values, which include protecting human life,” Turner said. “I understand not every shooting can be prevented or stopped from these measures, but I do believe these steps are essential.”

Johnson said he favors focusing on mental health issues and intervention, saying “Taking away firearms from law-abiding citizens isn’t going to help.”

Gov. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, has proposed expanding background checks an implementing red flag laws in the state. Such laws allow police or close family members to obtain court orders to remove firearms from someone who appears to be a danger to himself or others. 

Johnson said legislators need to be “very, very careful” imposing such laws, calling it a “slippery slope” and noting, “We don’t take away people’s driver’s licenses without due process. We can’t take their firearms without due process.”

DeWine’s proposal would require a judicial hearing within three days after a firearm was temporarily removed under this process and, if the person is determined to be a threat by the judge, he could be ordered to undergo mental health care before the firearms were returned.

Under the governor’s proposal, the person whose firearms are removed would be able to apply every three months to have them returned.

In DeWine’s case, Johnson said he believes the governor “has some good ideas.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.