In the wake of the tragedy in Texas, anti-gun activists are criticizing Ohio lawmakers for repeatedly loosening gun laws in recent years, including this year doing away with rules requiring a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
“These deaths are not part of god’s will. These are acts of systemic and structural evil that pertain to people’s misuse of firearms, of military grade weapons,” said the Rev. Jack Sullivan, executive director of the Ohio Council of Churches about the Texas shooting.
“We need to have systems and laws in placed that make it tougher for people to obtain weaponry that this man had when he massacred people at an elementary school and the man who murdered people in Buffalo the week before.”
Gun rights advocates counter that the solution is better security procedures, including armed school staff, not gun restrictions.
“This was a tragic incident,” said Dean Rieck, executive director of the Buckeye Firearms Association. “However, there are security concepts that could have been used at this school to help prevent or deter such an incident, such as controlling who has access to the building, lockable classroom doors, armed school staff with training, etc. Waiting for help from the police is not a good plan.”
Ohio and Texas laws both allow certain school staff to have firearms. Initial reports suggest Ramos was confronted by a school district police officer as well as two other officers at the school.
Rieck called for the passage of legislation to reduce the training required for school staff to carry firearms in schools in Ohio. He said currently in order to carry a firearm, a school staff member must receive the same training as police, amounting to more than 700 hours.
“This effectively prevents any school staff from being armed now,” he said. “Many Ohio schools are now soft targets and at more risk for similar incidents.”
Calls to ‘Do something’
Calls for action after this week’s shooting stretched from Dayton city hall to the statehouse to the Ohio governor’s race.
Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims Jr. before Wednesday’s city commission meeting asked for a moment of silence for the victims of the massacre.
“I ask that you call your federal legislators, as well as state legislatures, to remind them how grave and how important it is for this nation to protect our citizens, especially those who are most vulnerable,” Mims said, advocating gun reforms.
Dayton City Commissioner Darryl Fairchild said more than 1,000 days have passed since the Aug. 4, 2019, Oregon District mass shooting and a memorial event that evening where citizens chanted “do something” as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and other elected officials, who were on stage.
Fairchild said he remembers the anguished cries of loved ones of the shooting victims at the Dayton Convention Center that day, as authorities identified the injured and deceased. Fairchild said he will not accept that the city of Dayton cannot do anything about violence like this.
He said he wants city staff to reach out to statewide and national advocacy groups, including specifically focused on gun violence and safety, to try to identify a few actions the city can take to demonstrate that “we are not going to give up in the midst of this fight and shrink away from our responsibilities as leaders of this community.”
At the end of the Ohio House session on Wednesday, state Rep. Jessica Miranda, D-Cincinnati, rose to address mass shootings. It’s lawmakers’ duty to take actions to make their communities safer, she said.
“My colleagues, what we’re doing is not working. What we’re not doing is not working,” Miranda said.
She named the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, which killed 26; the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, which killed 17; the May 14 shooting at Tops Friendly Markets in New York which killed 10; and Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School in Texas, which killed 21. Miranda choked up as she read from a legal pad and asked for a moment of silence.
“I want more from you than just thoughts and prayers,” she said before reading off the names and ages of the dead from the New York and Texas shootings.
In response, state Rep. Timothy Ginter, R-Salem, stood to say some events should bring everyone together. He praised teachers and first responders, but asked legislators to “lay down all of these deeply felt ideological differences” and described the recent mass shootings as incomprehensible.
“Perhaps in the future we will delve into possible solutions, but not today,” Ginter said. Instead, he said, legislators mourned with victims’ families and sent their thoughts and prayers.
Nan Whaley, Democratic candidate for Ohio governor who was Dayton’s mayor during the Oregon District shooting, responded to this week’s shooting with renewed calls for Ohio leaders to “do something” about gun violence.
“All too often, communities from Dayton to Buffalo to Pittsburgh to Uvalde experience these heartbreaking, senseless mass shootings,” she said. “No one should have to live in fear of becoming victims to deadly shootings like these as we go about our lives. At school. At the grocery store. Anywhere. We must demand that our leaders take commonsense action to make our communities safer. We need leaders who are willing to do something.”
Gov. DeWine responded to the shooting by offering assistance to Texas and asking Ohioans to keep the victims and their families in their prayers.
“The last place we should be afraid to send our children and grandchildren is to school,” he said.
His office responded to criticism by noting that the state has increased school safety initiatives, such as establishing a Ohio School Safety Center in 2019 to help schools and law enforcement prevent, prepare for and respond to threats. The state also provides school safety resources and grants for school security upgrades.
As for preventing gun crimes, DeWine advocates enhanced sentencing of repeat violent offenders who are responsible for a large number of such crimes, his spokesman said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report