About Us| Issues & Campaigns| Media| Get Involved| New to the Issue?| Donate

April 4, 2011

Designated Shooters

The January shooting massacre in Tucson reminded America of how easy it is for mentally unstable individuals to legally purchase firearms. With states across the country beginning to liberalize their laws to allow the carrying of firearms in bars at the behest of the National Rifle Association (NRA), it is pertinent to ask who is hanging around in your neighborhood pub, as a recent incident from Ohio demonstrates.

On March 16 at approximately 2:00 a.m., the Summit County Sheriff’s Office in Akron, Ohio got a strange 911 call. A local gas station employee reported a man who was claiming that he was being chased by an individual with a gun.

When officers arrived at the station, however, they discovered a different situation. The man in question, 25-year-old Joseph Deitch, was present, but no pursuer could be found. According to a report filed by sheriff’s deputies: “Deitch was found to have an empty holster in his waistband and ammunition on his person ... Deitch appeared unstable and it was determined that no other subject with a gun was involved. He indicated that he had given several guns to a friend earlier in the evening. Other guns and a large amount of ammunition were discovered in the parking lot inside Deitch’s vehicle.”

Deputies also discovered that Deitch has a permit to carry a concealed handgun in Ohio.

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office soon received a call from the friend that Deitch had referred to. It turns out the he and Deitch had been at Brubaker’s Pub (about three miles from the gas station) earlier in the evening, and the friend had witnessed Deitch “make threats to shoot patrons of the bar.” Thankfully, Deitch left the bar before acting on these threats. His friend confirmed that he did indeed take possession of several of Deitch’s firearms as they departed the pub and went their separate ways.

Deputies’ next stop was the house where Deitch lives with his mother. At this location, additional firearms were found. All told, “10 handguns, shotguns, and assault rifles” were tagged and taken into evidence. At the conclusion of the investigation, Deitch was arrested on charges of aggravated menacing and booked into the Summit County Jail. More charges could be pending as the investigation continues.

Ohio is a “shall-issue” state where law enforcement has no discretion whatsoever in the issuance of concealed handgun permits. They must issue a permit to any individual who passes a computerized background check and undergoes the required 12 hours of training, including two hours shooting on a shooting range. Only permit holders who fail to renew their permits within six years need to retake this class—otherwise, it’s good for a lifetime.

Unfortunately, the background check for permit holders offers little in the way of mental health screening. Applicants who have been adjudicated by a court as a mental incompetent or involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution are disqualified from obtaining permits in Ohio. If Deitch fell under either of these two narrow categories (most individuals with mental health issues do not), his records were not found in any database.

On a positive note, under current Ohio law it is illegal for anyone to possess a firearm on the premises of a location that has a liquor license (it is unclear at this point if Deitch and his friend actually brought their guns inside Brubaker’s Pub). But that could change soon.

HB 45, which would allow Ohio’s concealed handgun permit holders to bring loaded guns into bars, was passed by a state House committee on March 16, the same day that Joseph Deitch threatened the lives of patrons in Brubaker’s Pub. Those carrying firearms into bars would be restricted from drinking alcohol, although the legislation does not specify any enforcement mechanism for this provision. Theoretically, a bartender would have to ascertain whether a customer has a gun every time he/she serves a drink. HB 45 would also allow concealed handgun permit holders to transport loaded handguns in their vehicles without having them secured in a holster, case, bag, or box.

Guns in bars legislation has not won any accolades with Ohio law enforcement. Cleveland Police Department Detective Stephen Loomis stated, “I have spent a career dealing with problems in bars, nightclubs, entertainment-district restaurants and men's clubs, and I can tell you without doubt or hesitation the introduction of firearms...will result in the senseless loss of human life … We're going to go from bar fights with bottles and fists to someone who pulls a gun and starts shooting the place up."

Mark Drum of the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio added that he is concerned that the idea of a “designated driver would be replaced with a designated shooter.”

The Ohio House is likely to vote on HB 45 this week. The Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence has issued an Action Alert encouraging Ohio residents to contact their state representatives to tell them to vote ‘No.’ For those who aren’t eager to share a drink (or meal) with the likes of Joseph Deitch and similar “law-abiding citizens,” your call can’t come too soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment