If Ohio lawmakers were waiting for a mass murder to restart the conversation about gun control, they got it.
Early Sunday morning a young man opened fire in a crowded entertainment district in Dayton, killing nine people and injuring dozens. It could have been much worse if the shooter had not been quickly shot and killed by officers who happened to be in the area.
That tragedy followed an even more deadly one less than 24 hours earlier in El Paso, Texas, where 22 people died after being gunned down in a shopping area.
As is the case after every mass murder in the U.S., the talk of need for tougher gun control has already begun. We hope something gets accomplished this time.
Gov. Mike DeWine, a former state attorney general, is urging lawmakers to consider new laws requiring background checks for nearly all gun sales and giving courts more authority to restrict firearms access for people perceived as threats. That latter idea is sometimes referred to as “red flag” laws.
DeWine is also calling for various reforms that would increase prevention, identification, and mental health treatment to better protect Ohioans.
We hope a reasonable discussion on gun control occurs this time, but we’ll believe it when we hear it. The Republican-controlled Legislature has given little consideration to any bills that limit guns in recent years.
Before leaving office, Gov. John Kasich laid out a package of gun reforms for lawmakers to consider after a bipartisan committee met and considered a range of options. Even though none of the recommendations were extreme, Kasich departed without any legislative action being taken.
If any changes come now, the philosophical divide between Republicans and Democrats on guns will have to narrow. Liberals will have to understand that gun ownership is part of American culture, often built around family traditions that extend generations. Conservatives will have to find a way to trust that minor changes to gun laws aren’t an attempt to erode the right to bear arms.
No single law will prevent mass murders, but closing loopholes in background checks and doing everything possible to keep guns out of the hands of mentally unstable or violent people shouldn’t be issues that divide us.
This state is not alone, of course, in wanting to do something, anything, to stop mass murders. Most states that have experienced them have talked tough, too, but have done relatively little about it. Meanwhile, mass murders continue.
Ohio should become an exception and tackle the problem on multiple levels, as DeWine has suggested. Doing so would show the state will not accept the status quo when it comes to gun violence.
Talk is cheap. Let’s not wait until the next mass murder to take action.