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Divisions surface over guns, pot, abortion during local Statehouse candidate forum

Two candidates for an Ohio House seat representing voters in southwestern Montgomery County made clear their divisions over stances on guns, marijuana and reproductive rights during a candidates’ forum Tuesday.

Democrat Zach Dickerson, who described himself as a gun owner and hunter, called gun control “probably the most defining issue” between himself and the 42nd House District incumbent, Republican Rep. Niraj Antani.

RELATED: Antani and Dickerson are winners in race for Ohio 42nd statehouse seat

“I respect the Second Amendment and I will protect your right to own a gun in this state as well,” said Dickerson, who supports strengthening background checks. “But I will not take the position that he has taken, that there is nothing else we can do. I don’t think that that’s responsible.”

Antani, who was first appointed to the seat in 2014 and elected in 2016, does not support any additional firearms restrictions, he said during the forum sponsored by the the League of Women Voters of the Greater Dayton Region.

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Other issues leading to firearms deaths are left unexamined: gun suicides and a culture that breeds gang and domestic violence, he said.

“At the end of the day we need to have folks respect the fact that there are people who want to defend themselves, but also address the culture of violence issue,” Antani said.

Dickerson called Antani’s view of the Second Amendment “outside the mainstream,” pointing to when the incumbent Antani stated earlier this year that 18-year-old students should be allowed to bear long guns in schools.

MORE: Ohio lawmaker: ‘Did a poor job of communicating’ position on students bearing firearms

Antani and Dickerson won their May primaries in the district that covers parts of Germantown, Miamisburg, West Carrollton, Moraine and Miami and Washington Twps. Antani received about 6,800 votes and Dickerson about 2,500 in their respective primaries.

Sides of the abortion debate are often incorrectly framed, said Dickerson. If one is pro-choice they aren’t pro-abortion; and if one is anti-abortion they aren’t anti-woman, he said.

Dickerson said he would collaborate across the aisle with Republicans to work on legislation that would help reduce abortions by supporting women, but he “doesn’t want the government invading that deeply intimate and personal choice for a woman.”

MORE: Kettering Women’s Med faces possible closure in abortion fight

Describing himself as pro-life, Antani said he doesn’t see a reduction in abortion possible without the intervention of legislators.

“I do want to see the number of abortions go down. If that were possible without a law, that would be great. I think the pro-life community would support that,” he said. “But unfortunately, the rhetoric is such that it’s no longer (that) abortion should be safe, legal and rare. It’s that abortion should be plentiful. And we see that at the Statehouse with NARAL, with Planned Parenthood and I think that’s unfortunate.”

After a bill was more narrowly tailored with safeguards, Antani said he cast one of the toughest votes of his career in favor of Ohio’s current medical marijuana law. But he is not in favor of full recreational use, he told a crowd of about 70 at the Miami Twp. Branch Dayton Metro Library, 2718 Lyons Rd.

“I was able to vote for that because I don’t think we should be denying anyone who has cancer access to a certain therapeutic treatment,” Antani said. “As far as recreational marijuana, I do not support that. Having a marijuana store on every street corner is a bad and dangerous idea.

MORE: Costs, delays frustrate those waiting on Ohio’s medical pot rollout

Dickerson, who attended law school in Denver as Colorado was implementing a marijuana program allowing recreational use, said he could support expanding Ohio’s law under certain conditions that protect public safety.

People are not allowed to drive or work drunk so “we’re not going to expect them to go into work high,” Dickerson said.

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