WVXU-FM reported on October 16, 2020, that cities and counties were increasingly lendingprosecutors to the U.S. Attorney's Office as gun violence continues to surge in Southern Ohio.U.S. Attorney Dave DeVillers referred to it as "the biggest problem that has ever happened tothe Southern District of Ohio."
According to WVXU, federal prosecutors have charged more than 200 new defendants withfirearms-related crimes this fiscal year 2020. The Southern District of Ohio has seen anincrease of 26 percent since October 2019 when compared to the district's four-year average.
DeVillers said gun violence is at historic levels in Cincinnati and Columbus with cases alsobeing up in Dayton. While several criminals are used to serving six months in a county jail forweapons violations, DeVillers said they are shocked when they are charged federally and getmore time.
"We're talking about consecutive sentences - five, seven to 10 years depending upon what youdo with the firearm," DeVillers said.
DeVillers said most violent crimes dealing with firearms involve drugs, and drug dealers couldnot use self defense as an excuse for possessing a gun and then using it to kill somebody. Atthe end of September, DeVillers announced federal charges against 16 defendants as part of aCincinnati gun violence initiative with ATF, Cincinnati Police and the Hamilton County Sheriff.
WSYX-TV reported on October 17, 2020, that there were 127 homicides in Columbus so far in2020, a total that exceeds the number of victims in the last two years. WDTN-TV reported onNovember 9, 2020, that city officials with Dayton and Columbus announced a lawsuit filed inFranklin County against the Ohio Attorney General’s Office over what they said was a failure tokeep guns out of the hands of criminals.
According to the Courthouse News Service, Columbus, Dayton, and a volunteer with MomsDemand Action for Gun Sense claim in their suit against Republican Attorney General DaveYost’s office and Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation that the bureau’sfailure to collect and maintain criminal history data could have deadly consequences.Incomplete databases impact background checks run by gun shops, and mean a gun could endup in the hands of someone with a disqualifying conviction.
The complaint cites news and government reports that found that a minimum of 27 percent ofOhio felony convictions in 2015 were not reported to the National Instant Criminal BackgroundCheck System. At least 90 courts between 2015 to 2018 had gone months at a time withoutreporting any crimes that would prohibit someone from owning a gun.
Clerks of court in Ohio are required by state law to send a weekly summary of each caseinvolving a felony, but the complaint said that only a portion of that data ever makes it to thedatabase. Some data is never entered by court clerks while other information is lost throughtechnological snafus.
While gaps in the state database became public knowledge in 2015, bureau employeesdescribed it as a “widespread issue” as early as 2012. The bureau launched a project that wassupposed to fix a part of the problem, but it was canceled in 2014. A working group formed in2013 to evaluate the issue advised that officials provide local courts with better mechanisms forsubmitting data on changes to firearm eligibility to state and federal databases.
The complaint states that deficiencies in the system reduce the efficacy of background checksconducted on would-be gun purchasers and concealed-carry permit holders. Examples citedincluded a rape committed by a home health care worker with a prior felony assault convictionand an Ohio State University employee’s murder of a colleague as examples of crimes madepossible by faulty background checks.
The plaintiffs are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, or a writ of mandamus, finding thatthe bureau is “in default of its obligations” and directing the bureau and its superintendent to“promptly fulfill their mandatory, nondiscretionary legal obligations to procure disqualifyingcriminal history and other relevant information pertaining to all persons convicted of relevantcrimes.”
The complaint noted that gun sales have “skyrocketed” since the COVID-19 pandemic hitAmerica in late February. Between March and September of this year, more than 590,000background checks were conducted of would-be firearms purchases in Ohio, or a 70 percentincrease from the same period last year.
Some of the common kinds of gun crimes in Columbus include carrying concealed weapons.Under Ohio Revised Code § 2923.12, carrying concealed weapons is a first-degreemisdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000, but theoffense becomes a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison and/or a fineof up to $5,000 if the weapon is a firearm and it is loaded or has ammunition within reach.
Using weapons while intoxicated under Ohio Revised Code § 2923.15 is also a first-degreemisdemeanor. Improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle under Ohio Revised Code §2923.16 can range from fourth-degree misdemeanor to fourth-degree felony.
As the WVXU story noted, penalties for federal weapons crimes can be much steeper. Firearmsmandatory minimum penalties continue to result in long sentences although they havedecreased since fiscal year 2010.
Selling guns without a license under 18 U.S.C. § 922(b) is punishable by up to 10 years inprison. Making a false statement or misrepresenting identity to a firearms dealer or “strawpurchases” can also result in up to 10 years in prison under 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6).
Under 18 U.S.C. § 922(o), it is illegal for any person to transfer or possess a machinegun.Possession of a machinegun can lead to a 10-year sentence if convicted, but use of amachinegun in the commission of another crime could lead to a sentence of up to 30 years inprison.
Possession of a firearm in a school zone is also punishable by up to five years in prison whilepossession of a stolen firearm could lead to 10 years in prison. Possession of a firearm by aconvicted felon is one of the most common criminal offenses people are charged with, andthese offenses are also punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
As U.S. Attorney DeVillers mentioned, gun crimes are often connected to drug crimes, andseveral federal statutes provide for enhanced penalties for such offenses. There is a minimumfive-year sentence for the mere possession of a gun during a violent crime or drug traffickingcrime, a minimum seven-year sentence for “brandishing” a gun during a violent or drugtrafficking crime, a minimum 10-year sentence if the gun is discharged during a violent or drugtrafficking crime, and there will also be a minimum 10-year sentence if a gun is a short barreledrifle or shotgun and a minimum 30-year sentence if the gun is a machinegun or a “destructivedevice.”
If you were arrested for an alleged gun crime in Columbus or a surrounding area of FranklinCounty, do not delay in getting yourself legal representation. Sabol | Mallory understands thestrongest defenses to utilize in these cases and we can fight to help you overcome criminalcharges.
Our firm handles a wide variety of weapons offenses and understands how to negotiate withprosecutors. You can have us review your case when you call (614) 300-5088 or contact usonline to set up a free consultation.