COLUMBUS, Ohio – A crowd of frustrated mourners yelled at Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Sunday night to “do something” about gun violence.

DeWine said he heard them.

“Some chanted ‘do something’ and they were absolutely right,” DeWine said at Tuesday morning news conference. “We must do something, and that is exactly what we are going to do.”

DeWine unveiled several proposals Tuesday morning aimed at curbing gun deaths. Among them: a “red flag” law, background checks for most firearm purchases, more access to mental health treatment and harsher penalties for felons with guns and straw purchases.

DeWine said no one thing will prevent gun violence, but together, the changes will save lives.

“If we do these things, it will matter. If we do these things, it will make us safer,” DeWine said. 

Police haven’t yet determined a motive for the Dayton shooter, who killed nine and injured 27 on Sunday morning. But DeWine, a Republican who took office in January, has been working on some of these proposals for months.

Whether DeWine’s solutions have any hope of becoming law depends on Ohio’s GOP-controlled Legislature, which has been wary of restricting gun rights. Several of DeWine’s ideas have been proposed in recent years and received little attention at the Statehouse.

“Red flag” laws allow police and relatives to ask a judge to remove guns temporarily from individuals whom they fear will cause harm to themselves or others. The judge grants what’s called an “emergency risk protection order.”

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DeWine also wants background checks on all gun sales, except sales between family members and a few other scenarios. That wouldn’t be new ground for DeWine, who voted for background checks on all sales at gun shows while in Congress.

The idea could be politically palatable. In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 90% of Ohio voters said they supported background checks for all gun buyers. And 87% of gun owners agreed. 

If DeWine and lawmakers don’t act, a group called Ohioans for Gun Safety wants to force lawmakers to consider a universal background check bill with a citizen-initiated law or put it on the 2020 ballot. 

Seventeen states have enacted red flag laws. Of those, 12 were passed after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018.

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As Ohio Governor Mike DeWine spoke at a community gathering after the Dayton shooting, the crowd erupted in chants of “Do something.”
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The National Rifle Association even supports emergency risk protection orders – if they protect gun owners’ due process rights not to have their property seized without a valid legal reason.

“The NRA believes that any effort should be structured to fully protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens while preventing truly dangerous individuals from accessing firearms,” the NRA’s lobbying arm wrote.

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But red flag laws have opponents in Ohio. The group Ohio Gun Owners wrote, “a ‘Red Flag Gun Seizure’ would allow virtually anyone who doesn’t like you to be able to make up a bogus complaint – allowing a liberal judge to order your firearms to be confiscated.”

GOP lawmakers who control the Ohio House and Senate opposed former Gov. John Kasich’s attempt to pass a red flag law, saying his version would violate Ohioans’ rights.

Any proposal needs to be constitutional and needs to be effective for lawmakers to support it, Ohio Senate GOP spokesman John Fortney said. 

DeWine also wants to strengthen existing laws for convicted felons caught with firearms and for straw purchases where someone who can’t legally buy a gun buys one through a third party.

What’s comes next? Ohio lawmakers will vet DeWine’s proposals after they return in mid-September. Several of the concepts were introduced by Democratic legislators, but those bills have yet to receive hearings. 

Follow Jessie Balmert on Twitter: @jbalmert