COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Ohio Sen. Jim Hughes (R-Columbus) are pushing for new legislation aimed at reducing the number of gun crimes in the state of Ohio. They are joined by Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Ron O’Brien, whose office has aggressively targeted violent gun crimes.
“During my first year in office as Ohio’s Attorney General, it became shockingly clear that too many people were losing their lives to gun violence,” said Attorney General Mike DeWine. “We don’t want to take guns away from law abiding citizens. Instead we want to take the violent offenders away from the guns.”
The Violent Career Criminal Act would change current gun specification sentencing laws and increase some penalties for offenders with two or more violent felony convictions.
“This legislation is designed to go after the worst of the worst and take offenders off the streets who prey on women, children, and societies most vulnerable,” said Sen. Hughes.
“Most of the violent crime that we see in Franklin County involves guns,” said Franklin County Prosecutor O’Brien. “If we target those committing gun crimes, especially the violent career criminals, I believe we can both prevent and reduce crime.”
DeWine formed the Violent Crimes with Guns Advisory Group in 2011 to study the problem of gun violence in Ohio and provide guidance to law enforcement and the legislature on how to best prevent gun crimes.
The group commissioned Ohio State University researcher Deanna Wilkinson, Ph.D., to conduct an in-depth study of Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and BCI data from 1974 to 2010. The study found that people with two or more violent felony offenses, who make up only .91 percent of Ohio’s adult population, are responsible for 57 percent of Ohio’s violent felony convictions.
“It is really only a small percentage of people who are committing the majority of these very violent crimes, and the Violent Career Criminals Act targets those people,” DeWine noted.
The Violent Career Criminal Act calls for a mandatory 11-year prison sentence for those convicted of illegally possessing a gun, if they have previously been convicted of two or more violent felonies. Today, a felon convicted of illegally possessing a firearm faces only one to five years imprisonment.
The act also would double gun specification penalties if the offender has previously been convicted of a crime involving a firearm. Current gun specification sentences range from one to seven years in prison, depending on the underlying gun crime.
The study also found that nearly 56 percent of all of Ohio’s violent felony convictions happened in Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Summit, and Franklin counties. Those counties, along with Montgomery, Stark, Lucas, Lorain, Butler, Lake, Clark, and Mahoning counties, account for 83 percent of violent crime.
“We know that longer prison sentences alone will not completely solve the gun crime problem in this state,” DeWine said. “That is why my office is also planning additional outreach initiatives, which we will announce in the next few weeks.”