The Ohio Statehouse is obsessed with guns and abortion. Is that what Ohioans want?

February 25, 2020 12:15 am
Gun rights advocate at rally

Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images.

Every week it seems we are reporting stories coming from the Ohio Statehouse on one bill or another that further tinkers with Ohio’s abortion and gun laws, typically restricting abortion services and access to abortion services and expanding access to guns.

We have a bill that would ban telemedicine as a way to receive abortion-related medicine, in particular the chemical abortion drugs mifepristone and misopristol. We have a bill giving a tax credit to donors for pregnancy centers who promote carrying a pregnancy to term. We have a bill that would ban insurance providers from covering abortion services.

We have a bill that would require the state Board of Education and the Department of Health to develop an “instructional program and educational materials … to protect the humanity of the unborn child.” We have a bill that would create criminal charges of “aggravated abortion murder” and “abortion murder.” We have a bill that requires that fetal remains of a surgical abortion be cremated or interred. And there are a handful of others I haven’t even mentioned.

Then there’s the gun violence issue. While Daytonians implored Ohio’s leaders to “do something” after the horrifying mass shooting Aug. 4 in the popular Oregon district, gun violence prevention proposals, including the gun violence prevention-light proposals from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, have been stalled.

A slew of proposals that would expand access to guns and loosen gun laws are plowing ahead, however. These include a proposed change to the self-defense law that would eliminate the legal requirement for a person to try to escape an aggressor before fighting back with deadly force. A separate bill would even more significantly walk back the duty to retreat for those who use force in self-defense.

Another bill would allow Ohioans to carry concealed firearms without a permit (back in 2005 when concealed carry was passed, legislators argued the permit process and training associated with it would ensure safety). Another would roll back Ohio drivers’ duty to notify cops “promptly” if they have a firearm.

These bills continue to move forward. Meanwhile, a variety of proposals to prevent gun violence, including proposals from DeWine, aren’t much expected to go anywhere. Former Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich has called GOP lawmakers’ unwillingness to consider gun violence prevention bills “baffling and unconscionable.”

Here’s what I find baffling: one would think that these two issues are the most important thing to Ohio voters, with the way in which the Republican supermajority General Assembly obsesses over them, tinkering around continually, and massively impacting Ohioans’ lives in the process.

One would be wrong. According to Baldwin Wallace University’s Community Research Institute, Ohioans list economic issues as their No. 1 concern, followed by security, health care, and energy.

This makes a lot of sense to me. Folks are worried about their income, their jobs, their ability to provide for their families, and their families’ access to affordable health care. They are not obsessing over every turn of the screw in the culture wars; they are obsessing over their standard of living, and the standard of living for their children and grandchildren.

Perhaps this is why so many folks feel so out of touch with the folks representing us in our government — the ideologues grabbing the headlines in our government seem so out of touch with us.

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David DeWitt
David DeWitt

OCJ Editor-in-Chief and Columnist David DeWitt has been covering government, politics, and policy in Ohio since 2007, including education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, state and local government, business, labor, energy, environment, and social issues. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS, and He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and is a board member of the E.W. Scripps Society of Alumni and Friends. He can be found on Twitter @DC_DeWitt