Ohio mayors allege failures in gun background check lawsuit



Mayors from Dayton and Columbus announced a lawsuit Monday morning alleging that the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation is not properly collecting information on felony convictions for the state’s background check system.

The lawsuit is aimed at reducing gun violence by keeping guns away from people legally barred from owning them.

The civil complaint was filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court against BCI and Joseph Morbitzer, superintendent of BCI. The defendants are the cities of Dayton and Columbus and Meghan Volk, an Ohioan with two children.

The lawsuit says more than 590,000 background checks were conducted for potential firearms purchasers between March and September, which was a 70% increase from the same period in 2019.

The complaint says BCI’s failure to properly collect information about criminal convictions from across the state is a “dangerous dereliction” of its duty.

“And until these widespread and continuing failures are addressed, they will continue to jeopardize the safety of residents in Columbus, Dayton, the state of Ohio and the entire nation,” the complaint states.

“People want to be safe,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said. “It’s just common sense that if someone is prohibited from owning a gun they shouldn’t be able to pass a background check through a bureaucratic mistake.”

Whaley joined Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein and Eric Tirschwell, managing director of Everytown Law, for a press conference announcing the lawsuit Monday morning.

It’s unacceptable that after so many years of public reports and investigations, major gaps exist in background checks that put the public at risk, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said.

A couple months ago, Everytown Law filed a lawsuit in federal court in the Southern District of New York against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Everytown in the case represents the cities of Syracuse, New York; San Jose, California; Chicago and Columbia, South Carolina.

The lawsuit claims the ATF is incorrectly interpreting federal law by failing to regulate the sale of “untraceable” gun parts, which can be assembled to create “ghost guns.”

Earlier this year, Everytown Law and Kansas City also filed a public nuisance lawsuit against a gun manufacturer and some licensed firearms dealers and individuals claiming they contributed to a “violent crime epidemic” in the city.

Everytown said the lawsuit was the first filed by a city against a gun manufacturer in more than a decade.

The lawsuit seeks reimbursement for costs stemming from violent crime allegedly related to the defendants' gun trafficking activities and calls on the court to issue an order requiring the defendants to recover firearms that are still in circulation.

Everytown Law is the litigation arm of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund.

We will update this story as more information is available.