Gov. John Kasich took his message for tougher gun control to the county level, signing a new executive order that urges clerks of courts and other agencies to do a better job at entering criminal information into the background check system.
At a press conference on Monday, Kasich said too many criminals are slipping through the cracks. As the Republican points out, the country has seen several recent mass shootings where the suspect was banned from buying a gun but their information was never entered into the national database for background checks.
But Kasich's executive order doesn't fix those problems outright. Rather, by signing the “National Instant Criminal Background Check System Compliance” order, Kasich is instructing a coalition of state agencies to find out which counties aren’t complying and why.
“If they do not comply, then we’re going to figure out what we can do to be more punitive,” Kasich says. “I’d rather start off with encouragement rather than punitive, we’ll see how it goes.”
Kasich says he hopes for initial answers within a month.
"There's just no excuse for this data not being sent," Kasich says.
In February, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that dozens of Ohio courts failed to upload the paperwork, including some that went months or years without an update. A committee that last met in 2015 concluded that reporting improvements were needed.
He also wants the state auditor to include reporting to that database as part of regular audits of local governments.
State Auditor Dave Yost, a fellow Republican, said he's been studying how such reviews could be done since late last year. Kasich's order will help the office achieve the mutual goal of seeing how well governments are doing with such reporting, Yost said.
The group Ohio Gun Owners says this is just another step in Kasich’s political game to jumpstart his gun control legislation. But the Ohio police union, the state police chiefs association, and the state clerks of court association support the proposal.
Columbus gun shop owner Eric Delbert applauded the move, saing it's inexcusable in an age when credit cards can be easily canceled that such reporting can't happen.
Without proper background information, Delbert said, "We inadvertently can let somebody who is a prohibited person to own a gun walk out the door."
Kasich introduced a legislative agenda in March that would, in his words, implement “common sense” gun control. Those provisions include the so-called “red flag law,” which would allow law enforcement to temporarily strip gun rights from people who show warning signs of violence, as well as proposals to strengthen prohibitions on third-party purchases, ban bump stocks, and ban armor-piercing ammunition.
Both Democrat and Republican legislators introduced bills that would make those changes, but Republican Senate President Larry Obhof has indicated it’s unlikely those measures would pass.
The agencies investigating problems with reporting include the Office of Criminal Justice Service (OCJS), Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS), Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and Ohio Supreme Court.