COLUMBUS - Three victims are dead. Their killer took his own life. Those left behind wonder if stricter laws could prevent the next Kirkersville slaying.
Perhaps the answer is less access to guns. Sen. Edna Brown, D-Toledo, wants to bar those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from possessing a gun. She also wants to prevent the subjects of protection orders from accessing firearms.
“Even if you support the Second Amendment, it should go hand in hand with keeping guns out of the hands of people we know are dangerous,” Brown said. Several who attended a rally in honor of the Kirkersville victims agreed.
But Brown’s bill would not have stopped Thomas Hartless, who killed his ex-girlfriend Marlina Medrano, her colleague Cindy Krantz and Kirkersville Police Chief Eric DiSario. Hartless was already barred from having a firearm because of his felony conviction in Knox County. Despite this, police found more than 60 guns at his parent’s home, where police believe he was living.
“If Sen. Edna Brown’s bill was the law in the state of Ohio today, do I think the outcome would have been different? No, I do not,” said Sen. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark.
Republicans like Hottinger control the Ohio Legislature and have been loath to impose any restrictions on firearms in recent years. That means bills like Brown’s stand little chance of passing.
Brown’s bill, introduced four days after the Kirkersville deaths, were prompted by a homicide in Delta, Ohio, where James Ramey is accused of fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend Amanda Mangas even though she filed a protection order against him.
Federal law prohibits those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence or named in a protection order from possessing firearms. Many judges impose these restrictions voluntarily as well.
“It’s pretending to fix a problem that is so serious,” said Jim Irvine, president of the Buckeye Firearms Association. “This bill won’t change anything.”
But state law does not bar the possession of guns in these circumstances. While federal law should trump state law, that doesn’t always happen. Local police might not have contacts at the U.S. Attorney’s Office or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to file charges, said Mike Weinman, director of government affairs for the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio.
“It would make enforcement of the federal law easier at every level,” said Nancy Neylon, executive director of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network. But Ohio’s lawmakers won’t seriously consider any bill that looks like gun control, she added.
Hottinger says he will look into any proposal that deters criminals from committing horrible acts. But at a certain point, “the only thing that is 100 percent effective is death or total imprisonment,” he said.
In March, senators passed a bill that would allow police to enforce violations of protection orders even if the offender wasn’t served. If the subject knew about the order, that would be enough.
Hottinger also is working on proposed legislation to increase penalties against people who violate a protection order against victims who are not related to or living with their offenders. A proposed ballot initiative would guarantee victims certain rights like speaking at court hearings involving their abusers.
Would any of these proposals have stopped Hartless? Sadly, Hottinger doubts it.
“He was walking the path of inevitability toward what he was going to do.”