Dayton, Columbus sue AG Dave Yost to improve Ohio’s background-check database

Dayton, Ohio – City attorneys for Columbus and Dayton have asked a Franklin County court to order Attorney General Dave Yost’s office to fix “large, dangerous gaps” in state and federal background-check reporting systems.

In the suit, announced Monday, the cities argue the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which Yost oversees, rejects many reports of felonies, outstanding warrants, and other red flags on technical grounds. And when court clerks don’t report such information, they aren’t punished, the suit alleges.

For years, Ohio has had problems with how often court clerks and other officials report information to background-check databases, which are used to determine — among other things — whether someone is legally qualified to buy a gun or hold a sensitive public job such as a teacher, among other things.

Such criticism has intensified in the wake of a number of mass shootings, including one in Dayton last year that left nine dead.

Gov. Mike DeWine has called for making it mandatory for local authorities to enter warrants and protection orders into state and national databases, among other proposed gun reforms. DeWine said in August his administration’s efforts have resulted in a 903% jump in the number of arrest warrants entered into the national warrant database since March 2019.

But the lawsuit filed by Columbus and Dayton claims the governor should be focused on ensuring all relevant information is supplied to the databases, rather than just warrants.

“We should all be deeply concerned that background checks may be failing to keep firearms out of the hands of violent offenders, putting our residents in a dangerous position,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, a Democrat, in a statement. “We cannot and will not tolerate it.”

In a statement Yost spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said the AG’s office has spent millions of dollars to improve the reporting system and that BCI is working with courts and law-enforcement agencies to more quickly and accurately feed information into the system. She noted that the AG’s office can’t force these agencies to provide the info.

“BCI is working toward having a process that is faster and the information is accurately verified,” McCorkle stated. “The problematic link in this chain is not BCI, as the complaint notes.”

The lawsuit, McCorkle continued, “has high drama, low substance, and no solutions,” noting her office learned of the suit through a news conference. “The utter lack of communication smacks of bad faith and is a poor mechanism to fix any problem,” she stated.

Besides Columbus and Dayton, the third plaintiff in the suit is Meghan Volk, an Ohio resident with two children in public schools.

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