In wake of Dayton shooting, lawmakers want to keep juvenile records longer

Friends of Oregon District shooter say he displayed a history of violent or threatening behavior dating back to middle school.

Juvenile records couldn’t be expunged until the offenders reach 28 years old, up from the current 23, under a bill being sponsored by state Rep. Phil Plummer, a former Montgomery County Sheriff.

Plummer, R-Butler Twp., said he wants the records to be available to law enforcement for a longer window because often the profile of mass shooters is a white male in his mid-20s with a juvenile record.

Friends and former classmates of Oregon District shooter Connor Betts, 24, said Betts displayed a history of violent or threatening behavior dating back to middle school and he was suspended for having a hit list.

Under current law, people may ask the juvenile court to seal their records after their case is finished. The sealed records are automatically expunged five years later, or when the person turns 23, whichever comes first.

Sealed juvenile records are still available to the court and some law enforcement agencies; expunged juvenile records are not available.

The Dayton Daily News has not been able to access Betts’ juvenile court records, with the Greene County Juvenile Court clerk only providing the newspaper with the section of state law dealing with records expungement.

People who as juveniles were convicted of violent or sex crimes would be banned from firearms possession until their records are expunged, according to the bill.

Plummer’s bill also seeks to mandate uploading of timely, accurate data into the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System that is used to conduct background checks for firearms purchases. Courts, police agencies and others that fail to upload information — such as indictments, warrants, criminal convictions — within one business day could face $1,000 a day fines.

Extending access to juvenile records and improving info uploaded would improve the existing criminal background check system, Plummer said. His bill would not mandate background checks for private or gun show sales of firearms.

“You got to keep guns out of criminals’ hands. Mass shootings, we can all focus on because it’s tragic but you also have to address the gang members who have been convicted of gun violence, who are shooting up grandma’s house every night, who are in gun battles with one another,” Plummer said.

Plummer said he did not work in concert with Gov. Mike DeWine on the bill, though the governor in August called for improvements in the data added to the background check system.

Related: Gov. DeWine releases plan for stronger gun background check system

Plummer’s bill would also add a mechanism for forced hospitalization for up to 72 hours for people who are suffering from substance use disorder and diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional.

The vacancy rate for Ohio’s 1,100 beds in its six state psychiatric hospitals is less than 5 percent.

Related: DeWine wants more state psych beds open for violent patients

Plummer said people suffering from drug addiction could be taken to local hospitals for immediate treatment and then sent to drug treatment programs.

Lastly, the bill would align state law with federal laws regarding who is prohibited from possessing or buying firearms.

Ohio has no law to prohibit people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from buying or possessing firearms or ammunition, though a federal law does. Likewise, Ohio doesn’t have a law blocking people subject to a domestic violence protection order from having guns, though a federal law does.

About the Author