COLUMBUS — Three weeks after unveiling his 17-point "Strong Ohio" plan to address gun violence, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine rolled out the changes he'd like to see to the way background checks are carried out — changes he said that will benefit society as a whole.
DeWine called the criminal history information submitted to Ohio's law enforcement automated system, called LEADS (Law Enforcement Automated Data System), and to NCIC the National Crime Information Center "dangerously deficient."
"When critical information is missing, bad things happen," DeWine said. He cited examples, such as law enforcement not knowing a suspect has a violent criminal history, or a school district unknowingly hiring a teacher with a criminal record.
"Or a federally licensed firearms dealer could unknowingly sell a gun to someone with a disqualifying conviction because that conviction simply did not show up in the background check," DeWine said.
Examinations by a compliance working group put together by former Governor John Kasich and DeWine's Ohio Warrant Task Force found serious flaws in the way Ohio shares criminal justice information, and that these must be addressed.
"Now is the time for act and that's what I intend to do," DeWine said in announcing plans to enhance the state and federal background check systems.
"Amazingly, there is currently no law in Ohio requiring the entry of warrants for violent crimes and protection orders into these systems," DeWine said. "This makes absolutely no sense."
"The state and federal background check systems are only as good as the information that is put into them. Our Strong Ohio bill will include language requiring courts enter final protection orders for stalking, domestic violence and sexual assault into LEADS and NCIC within 48 hours of issuance," DeWine said. "I think that every Ohioan would assume that already is required under Ohio law. Tragically it is not, it is time for us to change that."
In addition, the legislation being proposed to the Ohio General Assembly will mandate that law enforcement enter warrants for serious violent crimes; presently there is no such requirement. As a result, DeWine said that they found at present a minimum of a half million open warrants in the state. Only 217,000 of those were entered into the state LEADS system and of those only 18,117 were entered into the federal system.
"What can happen is obvious," said DeWine. "If someone is outside their county, law enforcement will have no idea when they run them that there's an outstanding warrant for their arrest, and if someone leaves the state of Ohio, only a small portion of this half million will show up in any kind of search that is done by law enforcement."
DeWine said responsible gun dealers rely on that information being present in the system so they don't sell a gun to someone who shouldn't have one, but when the information is never entered, it poses a safety risk.
Entering this information takes time, the governor acknowledged, and is cumbersome with the cost a burden on local governments.
"Both working groups that I have referenced also recommend a statewide system to make this process easier and more uniformly to be adopted," DeWine said.
DeWine said the state has an obligation to make this easy and for the state to pay for it.
"The time to act is now, we must work to make the system work better," he said, charging Lt. Governor Jon Husted and Innovate Ohio with the task of coming up with a technological solution to the problem of getting the warrant and protection order information where it needs to go.