I-Team: Could red flag laws help prevent gun violence in Ohio?

Published: Monday, May 20, 2019 @ 6:30 PM
Updated: Tuesday, August 06, 2019 @ 10:54 AM

Some say there has got to be a better way to protect people from gun violence, especially when the person responsible for that violence has mental health issues.

Sharon Stout of Springfield said there has got to be a better way to protect people from gun violence, especially when the person responsible for that violence has mental health issues. 

The former teacher thinks back to the January 2011 ambush of Clark County Sheriff's Deputy Suzanne Hopper by Enon Beach resident Michael Ferryman.

>> LATEST NEWS: Gov. DeWine calls for lawmakers to pass red-flag law, stronger background checks to fight gun violence

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Hopper was responding to a call of shots fired in the area and as she approached Ferryman's mobile home, he opened fire and killed her. 

"With her death we lost a valuable human being," Stout said. 

Investigators later learned Ferryman had been involved in a standoff with police in 2001 near Athens, Ohio, and had spent some time in a mental health facility before moving to Springfield. 

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Hopper apparently was unaware of his past run-in with police when she responded to his home at Enon Beach. 

Stout also has some firsthand experience when it comes to dealing with people and trying to prevent violence. 

Her family had to act to remove some weapons from another family member going through a difficult time and suffering from mental health problems. 

"Guns in the house add an extra concern," Stout said. 

In an effort to lend her voice to the need for change, Stout joined the group Moms Demand Action and has taken an interest in a proposal supported by the group to bring a "red flag law" to Ohio. 

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine asked lawmakers Tuesday to act on red-flag laws, background checks, and tougher penalties for violent felons to deal with gun violence and mental health in the wake of Sunday’s mass shooting in Dayton. He's shown with Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and wife, Fran DeWine. JIM OTTE/STAFF

The law would permit a family member or a law enforcement agency to obtain a judge's court order to remove weapons from the home of a person at risk of hurting themselves or someone else. 

Former State Rep. Mike Henne, a Republican from Clayton, introduced a red flag bill in 2018, but quickly found it difficult to get much traction with it.

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"I'm a lifetime member of the NRA and a big supporter of the Second Amendment," Henne said. 

Even with an endorsement of then-Governor John Kasich, Henne's bill came under heavy criticism, including threatening voicemail messages from critics. 

Henne played one of the messages for the I-Team in which the caller accused him of being a "traitor to this country." 

"If you vote yes on that bill tomorrow we'll make sure you never get elected again," the caller went on to say. "We'll vote you out. We'll go everywhere we can." 

Henne left office, due to term limits, as the bill quietly withered away at the end of the last legislative session. 

While Ohio has resisted calls to pass some kind of measure to remove guns from the hands of people who may become violent, nearby Wayne County, Indiana, and the rest of the state, have had it on the books since 2006.

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Wayne County Sheriff Randy Retter said it was used there 10 times in 2018 and two times so far in 2019. 

The Indiana law allows the gun owner to go to court within two weeks to petition the judge to return their weapons. The sheriff estimated in about 50 percent of the cases where guns were removed from a home, they were eventually returned to the owner. 

Retter says it can save lives. 

"Also protect the individual's constitutional right to keep their firearms," he said. 

Still critics like Christopher Dorr of Ohio Gun Owners said the law remains an affront to the constitutional rights of anyone who loses possession of their firearms. 

"Gun owners look at red flag legislation as the complete destruction of due process or gun owners," he said. "It gets rid of due process and instead empowers courts to make decisions based on usually one side's facts to have somebody's firearms taken away from them."

With the start of the new legislative term in Columbus in January 2019, another red flag bill has been introduced by a state senator from Cleveland. 

Gov. Mike DeWine has also been talking about supporting some version of the bill to get guns out the wrong hands. 

Stout remains hopeful Ohio passes it before the nation sees another mass shooting. "It could happen anytime, anywhere in the United States," she said.