- Columbus, OH and Dayton, OH have filed a lawsuit against the Office of Ohio Attorney General (OAG) Dave Yost over an alleged failure to sufficiently update and maintain the criminal background check system used to determine if an individual can own a gun.
- The cities allege the OAG and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification (BCI) have "persistently and systematically failed" to fix the system's deficiencies. "This case is about the continuing and dangerous failure of [the office]...to fulfill its mandatory obligation to collect and report disqualifying criminal conviction information into the state and federal background check system databases," the lawsuit reads.
- There are "massive gaps" and likely thousands of missing records in the state's background check system, said Eric Tirschwell, managing director of firm Everytown Law, during a Monday press conference. "We believe that state officials have a clear legal obligation to make sure Ohio’s background check system contains every record it should," he said.
The "completeness and accuracy" of these databases are essential to public safety, according to the lawsuit. Ohio Auditor Keith Faber is cited in the suit saying that 88 counties had "'at least one court or law enforcement department that didn’t report records on time or in a few cases, at all.'"
Accurate background checks are critical for informing gun shop owners if they can safely sell to an individual, the lawsuit reads. The information is also responsible for informing sheriffs' decisions about who to grant concealed carry permits and for informing schools and cities about which teachers or police officers are safe to hire.
"This is not a partisan lawsuit," Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said at the press conference. "This is an effort to ensure that when somebody attempts to purchase a firearm or to obtain a concealed-carry permit or to be hired for a sensitive job, we can safely say that they have no disqualifiers in their past that prevent them from doing any of these things."
A BCI spokesperson responded to the lawsuit by saying it is "embedded in 'high drama, low substance and no solutions,'" the Columbus Dispatch reports.
The lawsuit also comes as the cities grapple with gun violence and high rates of homicides. Dayton was home to a mass shooting in August 2019 that killed nine people and injured 17. And Columbus, like many cities across the country, has experienced a surge in homicides this year. The city saw a 39% increase in homicides at the end of September compared to the same point last year.
To enact gun reform, cities are limited in what they can accomplish without the state's help as most of those laws are passed at the state level, according to University of Dayton law professor Thaddeus Hoffmeister. In Ohio, gun laws are more geared to rural environments than urban areas, he said.
"What this lawsuit does, is it helps people remember that this is a problem, it is an issue," Hoffmeister said. "And many cities like Columbus and Dayton are at their wit's end, and they want support from the state. They want the state to do something. But instead, the state is … limiting what cities can do."
"We’re well-aware that fixing these problems in our background check system won’t end gun violence. No law prevents all crime, but every sale that our background check system blocks to someone with a violent history, is a potential tragedy averted," Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said during the press conference.