Despite rise in child deaths, Ohio lawmakers won’t allow for gun safety laws

By: - September 6, 2023 4:50 am

Photo by Aristide Economopoulos for New Jersey Monitor/States Newsroom.

Ohio is seeing an increase in shooting deaths for children and teens, but state lawmakers refuse to put forward gun safety laws and won’t let cities enact their own either.

Across Ohio, big city leaders are pleading to state lawmakers.

“Do something about the guns flooding our streets,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said during a press conference in late August.

Gun violence is up. The amount of children and teenagers being shot and killed has steadily increased over the past decade. This includes a Columbus 15-year-old who was shot and killed at the popular Easton Town Center shopping mall. Columbus police arrested two 13-year-olds for the crime.

Following the shooting, Ginther reignited the already heated debate on authority over firearm regulations.

“If the legislature won’t take action — then get out of our way,” the mayor said.

Graphic by Morgan Trau. Data from the Ohio Department of Health.

Columbus is in a contentious lawsuit against the state, and so is Cincinnati.

Both have tried to put forward city-wide regulations to require gun owners to lock up their weapons to keep them away from children. The reason why it is in court, despite Ohio being a “home rule” state, is because the Revised Code has a preemption law that prevents municipalities from creating their own gun regulations.

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb has also asked for gun safety laws. After a mass shooting, he brought up an idea to put forward a constitutional amendment to change gun laws.

State Rep. Rodney Creech (R-West Alexandria) completely shut down all three cities.

“A lot of times when there’s a shooting, that’s when everybody says, ‘wait a minute… we need more gun restrictions,'” Creech said. “No, there was an idiot that picked up a gun.”

Creech doesn’t believe in any laws impacting gun rights. Criminals will find a weapon anyway, so putting forward restrictions only hurts the law-abiding Ohioans, he said.

House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) disagreed, telling the cities that the Democrats and some Republicans are trying to help.

“We have a legislature that is, I think, very out of touch with where the public is and has frankly made it easier for people to get, guns — people who shouldn’t have guns — including children,” Russo said.

Current gun laws

Ohio laws are as follows, but not limited to:

  • A person must be at least 18 years old to purchase a long gun
  • A person must be at least 21 years old to purchase a handgun.
  • Convicted felons are prohibited from purchasing, possessing or using firearms
  • A person may not open-carry a firearm into a school, onto school grounds or school bus, or into a courthouse
  • No background checks for handgun purchases at point of sale
  • No concealed carry permits needed (permitless carry)
  • No extreme risk law to allow law enforcement or family members to petition for a court order to temporarily prevent someone from accessing a gun
  • No secure storage requirement to prevent children or others from accessing guns or ammo
  • No high-capacity magazines prohibited
  • Allows approved adults to carry guns in schools
  • Does not allow municipalities to create their own gun safety laws

Happening now

Across the General Assembly, Democrats have put forward a dozen bills this year to tighten firearm safety — including one that allows cities to make their own gun laws.

“They know best about what is best for their communities,” Russo added.

Creech fears this is a slippery slope and could lead to cities trying to force safety regulations on the rest of the state. But when asked if it was fair that rural lawmakers get to make decisions for metro areas, he said that is the way the government works.

“It says ‘right to bear arms,’ it doesn’t say right to bear arms for training,” Creech said. “It doesn’t say right to bear arms if you lock them up, it doesn’t say right to bear arms with a background check.”

It is unlikely any piece of safety legislation will pass through the Statehouse this session. The best hope for safety laws is if Columbus or Cincinnati win their lawsuits.


This article was originally published on and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.

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Morgan Trau
Morgan Trau

Morgan Trau is a political reporter and multimedia journalist based out of the WEWS Columbus Bureau. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Trau has previously worked as an investigative, political and fact-checking reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. at WZZM-TV; a reporter and MMJ in Spokane, Wash. at KREM-TV and has interned at 60 Minutes and worked for CBS Interactive and PBS NewsHour.