DeWine warns after Springfield shootings: Ohio faces ‘a summer of violence in our cities’

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine pleaded for increased penalties for gun crimes Wednesday, saying after a mass shooting in Springfield: “We are looking towards a summer of violence in our cities. We have to take action.”

The Springfield shooting wounded six people, including one seriously.

“When I got up this morning, the first thing I saw on the news feed from Dayton Daily News was this story,” DeWine told reporters. It happened on South Yellow Springs Street, “a street that I know very well in Springfield.”

Springfield police declined to say anything about potential shooting suspects. But DeWine said one of the suspects is a person who is under disability, a legal term that means the person is prohibited from having weapons. He called for stiffer penalties for such people who commit gun crimes.

“What police officers, what chiefs of police, what mayors tell me across the state of Ohio is that in their communities there are a few repeat violent offenders who they know their names, they know who they are, who are not supposed to have guns,” DeWine said. “We need to toughen our laws so when the police come upon someone like that who is in the possession of a gun that they can charge them and make that stick and it be a very, very severe sentence.

“There are a handful of people in our cities who literally need to be removed from society,” DeWine said.

Stiffening penalties for gun crimes is one part of a raft of reforms DeWine has unsuccessfully advocated for since a man shot and killed nine people in the 2019 Oregon District mass shooting in Dayton. Most of the governor’s proposals — including increased background checks — gained no traction among fellow Republicans who control the General Assembly. But increasing penalties for repeat offenders faces less opposition.

“I support the governor’s request to increase penalties for those that commit crimes with a gun,” said state Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, a sponsor of the “stand your ground” bill signed into law by DeWine earlier this year.

Koehler called the Springfield shooting a “horrible tragedy” but said the governor made a mistake by saying it foreshadows a summer of violence. And he said it doesn’t speak to the need for other gun restrictions.

“To blame it on a weapon and not the individual is not something I’m going to do,” said Koehler. “If someone with a gun disability obtained a gun, that’s not proof that the system is broken. It’s proof that lawbreakers don’t follow the law. If they’re intent on obtaining the firearm, they’re obtaining the firearm illegally. Creating a law is not going to stop those people.”

State Sen. Bob Hackett, R-Springfield, called it a blessing that all the victims survived and thanked the police and first responders for their response to the shooting.

“I sincerely hope those responsible will be brought to justice quickly,” he said.

Hackett said he doesn’t oppose considering increased penalties for repeat, violent offenders as long as it doesn’t create any obstacles for law-abiding gun owners.

State Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, said penalties for gun crimes are severe enough.

“I don’t think just because you commit a crime with a firearm it should be more than any other weapon,” he said.

“More firearm restrictions and more restrictions on the 2nd Amendment will only hurt law-abiding citizens who are trying to exercise the 2nd Amendment. We need to focus on why we have this culture of violence in our society,” Antani said.

DeWine called the Springfield shooting a tragedy but one that is not unique to Springfield.

“We owe it to the police officers who are out there every single day risking their lives to pass this legislation,” he said. “It will truly, truly save lives.”

Dean Rieck, executive director of the Buckeye Firearms Association, does not support additional laws to deal with criminal use of guns.

“The vast majority of shootings and killings are committed by criminals who are already prohibited from owning firearms and who acquire guns through illegal means,” he said. “New laws will be ignored in the same way current laws are ignored. We are not aware of any proposed legislation that would have made any difference in the Springfield shooting or in any other similar incident.”