Debating Guns, Personal Liberty

Nothing Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine proposed Monday has not been discussed previously, in one form or another. That makes it certain that the governor’s agenda will be the subject of sustained, sometimes fierce, debate.

Personal liberties and gun control are the subjects, after all.

After a gunman killed nine people and wounded dozens of others in Dayton on Aug. 4, DeWine pledged to put forth a legislative package aimed at preventing at least some massacres in the future. On Monday, the governor outlined his plan.

In essence, it has three parts:

First, legislation allowing involuntary commitment of people with severe mental health problems. Chronic alcoholics and those dependent on drugs could be hospitalized for 72 hours if they seem dangerous to themselves or others. DeWine pledges those detained would retain various rights, including attendance at hearings and the availability of lawyers.

Second, family members and law enforcement authorities could seek “safety protection orders” from judges, allowing the seizure of firearms if safety is a concern.

Third, several new limits on gun purchases would be enacted. One would require background checks for all firearms sales.

Beyond any reasonable doubt, DeWine’s package will be pared down — if any of it is enacted. State legislators have demonstrated substantial worry about infringement upon Second Amendment rights. In addition, confining people involuntarily raises concern about individual liberties.

But those who worry DeWine wants to go too far are not, as their critics sometimes claim, puppets of the “gun lobby.” They are men and women who understand the danger inherent in curbing constitutional rights.

So, the battle begins. Let us hope it proceeds in a spirit of respect, not name calling — to find solutions and, perhaps, save lives.


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