COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s been 60 days since Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced his STRONG Ohio initiative — a 17-point plan to address gun violence and mental illness. On Monday, Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown joined him and others in Columbus to talk about the specifics and why they say this bill is important.
Red Flag-style bills have seen stiff opposition from pro-Second Amendment groups. DeWine is using existing law to try to ease those concerns.
In order to separate people who are a danger to themselves or others from weapons, DeWine wants to involuntarily commit them to a psychiatric hospital.
“The foundation for the Safety Protection Order is built on the existing Pink Slip law and it looks to remedy the inadequacies of that law,” said Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.
Here’s how it works.
Patients can be held in the hospital for up to 72 hours. Currently, this only applies to those with severe mental illness, but the bill would add drug dependence and chronic alcoholism as well.
“I see it all the time on my streets of Youngstown, Ohio,” Mayor Brown said. “The dual diagnosis, the mental health issues and I can just imagine if those people are not getting treatment and they become agitated or angry, what they would do.”
He said this is a step in the right direction toward getting them treatment.
“I heard the word ‘treatment’ today and I want to make sure if this is what we’re going to move forward, we’re going to move forward treatment and help those people get stable in their life.”
A court date will be set within those 72 hours and at that hearing, the patient will have access to all due process rights.
If the judge determines they are a threat to themselves or others, they must order treatment and place the patient under a weapons disability order.
The patient will not be allowed to own, use, possess or purchase a gun under this order.
They will be given an opportunity to sell their guns to a dealer or turn them over to a family member not living with them. Otherwise, the guns will be seized and held by law enforcement in a safe way.
“It does not require the police to go in and try to get the guns away from an individual,” DeWine said. “It first separates that individual and then allows the police to come in. Much, much safer.”
When a judge finds them to no longer be a danger, they will be able to get their guns back.
So what makes this different than a Red Flag law?
“A Red Flag law does not require treatment,” Husted said. “A Red Flag law doesn’t mean that the person is going to get the support that they need to get better. There are many other ways than guns that they can harm themselves or others. This is a more comprehensive approach at helping to get them treatment and giving them due process.”
Brown still thinks the bill could go further.
“I think we’re going to continue to work on places like Youngstown, Ohio and Dayton, Ohio where many of those who are carrying the weapons are not legal owners, they’re illegal owners. And we want to figure out, ‘How are those guns getting on the streets of Youngstown, Ohio?'”
He said it’s a problem when anyone, even young teens, can access these guns on the streets.
“I think we need to dig a little further…I really want to figure out, if they’re coming on the streets of Youngstown, Ohio, how are they getting there?”
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley supports this bill. She also said it’s a first step, even if it doesn’t go far enough in some respects.