Violating State Law, Cleveland Muni Court Failed to Submit Names of People Prohibited From Buying Guns to Background Check Database

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An Ohio law requires that local courts submit a weekly list of the names of people who are legally prohibited from buying a gun. Included are those convicted of felonies and domestic violence, drug crimes and violence crimes. That information, submitted to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations, is used by the FBI to run background checks. Naturally, there is no penalty for court systems that fail to do so, and an investigation by the Cincinnati Enquirer found that 90 Ohio courts over the past three years have failed to submit qualifying names to the database.

Among them is East Cleveland. "A court official in East Cleveland said she was too busy to report people banned from owning a gun or even to allow the state to pick up the paperwork to enter names into the database manually," the Enquirer reported. "It would take too much time to go through the paperwork and her court does not have the money to make that many copies," a March 2017 state said.

This isn't a particularly new problem — a November 2015 report noted that in 2011, at least one-quarter of felony convictions were never reported to the state database — but it's continued to linger even after the Ohio Supreme Court and the BCI created an electronic system for local courts to use. Because we're talking about bureaucracy and differing kinds and levels of IT systems employed by municipalities, there were naturally problems. The Enquirer reports that only 47 of the 350 Ohio court systems with access to the system had technology that allowed them to use it.

Cleveland Municipal Court opted into the system, if you were curious. But it stopped using it, and reporting names, because its password expired, according to a November 2016 report reviewed by the paper.

All this means that the database that's supposed to stop a prohibited person from buying a firearm is incomplete. Oh, the database is also used for background checks at schools, for foster parents and by private employers.

BCI does what it can but there's no agency that has purview over the issue. So the best they can do is call court systems who fall behind months and even years in submitting names.

"Clerks are kind of their own entity," BCI spokesman Dan Tierney told the Enquirer.

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