Can Common Ground Be Found In The Debate Over Guns In Ohio?

Nov 14, 2017

Jim Irvine, President of the Buckeye Firearms Foundation testifies before senate judiciary committee.
Credit Jo Ingles

The debate over gun control happens daily in nearly every part of the country and today, it was front and center as a gun bill was debated at the Statehouse. But can common ground be found? 

The latest bill to expand gun rights would allow Ohioans to carry hidden, loaded handguns in public without permits or safety training. It would also make Ohio a "Stand Your Ground" state, changing the rules for guns being used in self-defense. Inside a Senate committee hearing room, Jim Irvine, the President of the Buckeye Firearms Association, testified for the bill, saying Ohio is an outlier when it comes to gun laws.

“Every attorney I know that deals with self-defense and this stuff agrees Ohio’s law is different than the rest of the states. Ohio’s law is an embarrassment to our state. It  needs to be fixed.”

As Irvine tells lawmakers why they should pass the bill, a group of women wearing matching red tee shirts with the slogan, “Moms Demand Action,” sit quietly, shaking their heads in disagreement. Michele Mueller of Cincinnati is with that group.

“It just upends the traditional self-defense, the laws that have been working in Ohio, shifts the whole burden of proof to the prosecutor.”

A first hearing
This is the first hearing Ohio lawmakers have had on this particular bill and both sides say they will be trying to educate lawmakers about it. It’s another day in the hard fought battle over gun rights and gun restrictions at the Statehouse. Gov. John Kasich recently wrote an op-ed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, saying he believes there could be common ground between the two sides. And in a recent interview on the Sunday morning show "This Week on ABC," Kasich said this:

“But, look, here's what I'm trying to do. Ohio is a place where people want to solve problems. They're willing to listen to one another. So what I want to do is I want to get a group of reasonable people, pro-gun people and those who favor limits on gun ownership, and I want to put them in a room and see if we can find some common ground.”

During his seven years in office, Kasich has signed several laws expanding gun rights, including a measure last year allowing day cares and college campuses to permit people to carry concealed weapons. But back at the Statehouse, Mueller says her group is embracing Kasich’s latest message.

“We want to work with him too. We were glad to hear that he believes there is common ground. Not only that, we are going to ask him to reject and oppose these bills.”

Common ground
Irvine says there is common ground to be found here but it isn’t about guns.

“What there is agreement on is we don’t like crimes. We don’t like rape. We don’t like murder. We don’t like a five-year-old kid getting hold of a gun and shooting his brother or sister.”

Mueller says her group doesn’t oppose gun ownership.

“We have gun owners in Moms Demand Action. What we believe is you can respect the second amendment but with rights comes responsibilities.”

Mueller says this latest gun bill Irvine is backing is irresponsible and dangerous. Irvine says it’s a matter of allowing Ohioans the opportunity to use and carry their weapons so they can be responsible for their own safety.

“I want the victim to win the fight with the criminal and I think there’s almost universal agreement on that issue. Now the question is, what law gets us there?”

It’s not so simple to answer that question. In his latest interviews and op-ed, Kasich didn’t propose a fix either.