Monday 16 September 2019

Republican governor backs tougher gun checks following Ohio massacre

Mike DeWine faced pressure following the latest mass shooting to rock America.

Ohio governor Mike DeWine (AP)
Ohio governor Mike DeWine (AP)

By John Seewer

Ohio’s Republican governor has urged the state legislature to pass laws requiring background checks for nearly all gun sales and allowing courts to restrict firearms access for people perceived as threats.

Governor Mike DeWine’s move came as he faced pressure to take action after the latest mass shooting in the United States, which left nine people dead in the city of Dayton.

He told a press conference that Ohio needs to do more while balancing people’s rights to own firearms and have due process. He outlined a series of actions he wants the legislature to take up to address mental health issues and gun violence.

Mr DeWine said: “We can come together to do these things to save lives.”

ipanews_0b3c4734-5d4a-4f6d-b051-ed3cc9840bd1_embedded244509311
Mourners embrace near a makeshift memorial near the scene of the shooting (AP)

His calls for action could be an uphill battle for the Republican-controlled legislature, which has given little consideration this session to those and other gun-safety measures already introduced by Democrats.

Mr DeWine’s Republican predecessor, John Kasich, also unsuccessfully pushed for a so-called red flag law on restricting firearms for people considered to be threats.

Police say there was nothing in the Dayton shooter’s background to prevent him from buying the firearm used.

The massacre outside a strip of nightclubs in the city and another mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, left a combined total of 31 people dead and more than 50 injured in less than 24 hours over the weekend.

ipanews_0b3c4734-5d4a-4f6d-b051-ed3cc9840bd1_embedded244494304
Connor Betts was quickly gunned down by police on the scene (AP)

Ohio police said 24-year-old Connor Betts was wearing a mask and body armour when he opened fire with an AR-15-style gun in Dayton.

If all of the magazines he had with him were full, which has not been confirmed, he would have had a maximum of 250 rounds, said police chief Richard Biehl.

“To have that level of weaponry in a civilian environment is problematic,” Mr Biehl added.

Betts had no apparent criminal record as an adult and police said there was nothing that would have prevented him from buying a gun.

Ohio law bars anyone convicted of a felony as an adult, or convicted of a juvenile charge that would have been a felony if they were 18 or older, from buying firearms.

Two former classmates told the Associated Press that Betts was suspended during their junior year at Bellbrook High School after a hit list was found scrawled in a school bathroom.

That followed an earlier suspension after Betts came to school with a list of female students he wanted to sexually assault, according to the two classmates.

ipanews_0b3c4734-5d4a-4f6d-b051-ed3cc9840bd1_embedded244504308
Donald Trump has called for Washington to unite to bring in strong background checks for gun users (AP)

Others remembered how he tried to intimidate classmates.

“It’s baffling and horrible that somebody who’s been talking for 10 years about wanting to shoot people could easily, so easily, get access to a military grade weapon and that much ammo,” said Hannah Shows, a former high classmate who remembered seeing Betts look at people and imitate shooting at them.

“He was someone who enjoyed making people afraid,” she said.

Former Bellbrook High School classmate Addison Brickler rode the bus with Betts and said he taunted her regularly.

“He was the bully,” Ms Brickler told the AP. “He used to make fun of me on the bus, talk about my weight, make me feel bad about myself. He would laugh and think it was funny, joke about it. We thought it was a normal thing.”

Bellbrook police chief Doug Doherty said he and his officers had no previous contact with Betts and were not aware of any history of violence.

Sugarcreek Township police said the only records they have on Betts are from a 2015 traffic citation.

What is still unknown is whether Betts targeted any of the victims – including his 22-year-old sister, Megan, the youngest of the dead.

The attack unfolded in the space of 30 seconds, before police officers stationed nearby fatally shot Betts.

A database by the Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University shows that there have been 23 mass killings in America so far this year, claiming the lives of 131 people. By comparison, 140 people died in mass killings in total over 2018.

President Donald Trump said he wanted Washington to “come together” on legislation providing “strong background checks” for gun users, but he provided no details on how this might happen. Previous gun control measures have languished in the Republican-controlled US senate.

The Democrat-led US house of representatives has passed a gun control bill that includes amendments to the nation’s firearm background checks system, but it has also languished in the senate.

PA Media

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News