Bipartisan Ohio bill seeks to raise age to own firearms to 21

By: - January 24, 2020 12:45 am
gun with bullets

File photo from Wikimedia Commons attributed to St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office.

A bill with bipartisan sponsorship making its way through the Ohio legislature aims to raise the age for gun ownership from 18 to 21.

Senate Bill 182 would also increase the maximum amount of prison time and fines attached to the charge of “improperly furnishing a firearm to an underage person.”

Under the proposed law, attempting to buy a firearm is a second-degree misdemeanor for those between the ages of 18 and 21. 

The gun-control advocacy group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense says the responsibility of owning or using a gun should come with a “level of maturity similar to the ones imposed upon drinking alcoholic beverages, voting and driving,” organization member Tara Talgar told the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee.

Talgar brought up the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — in which 17 people were killed by a 19-year-old gunman — as an example of how mental health and social interventions could have intervened if firearms hadn’t been readily available. 

“This legislature has an opportunity this year to be on the right side of this conversation and begin to push legislation that makes our state safer and helps keep firearms out of the hands of people who should not possess them,” Talgar said.

The Buckeye Firearms Association opposes the bill. The BFA’s Southwest Ohio regional leader, Joe Eaton, told the Capital Journal the bill “would serve no public safety good.” 

“It would disarm potential crime victims in that age of 18 to 21,” Eaton said. “And with it being a constitutionally protected right, are we also going to raise the age for freedom to assemble, or unlawful search and seizure?”

Eaton said the bill would also impact lawful gun owners in that age bracket who use their guns for things like hunting and shooting sports. 

Raising the age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21 would decrease the amount of suicides, homicides and unintentional shootings among the group by reducing access to the weapons, bill co-sponsor state Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Avondale, said in testimony to the committee.

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, a fellow sponsor, argued science shows the adolescent mind is not conducive to weighing the risks and dangers of using a firearm. She said individuals younger than 21 “tend to rely more heavily on the emotional regions of their brains, which can make it challenging for them to make logical and appropriate decisions.”

“I believe by focusing on risk and accountability, we can create a policy environment in which those at greater risk for causing harm are prevented from accessing lethal means,” Lehner told the committee.

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.