As Dayton’s first local observance of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence’s Million Mom March makes its way through downtown Dayton streets Sunday, it will be against a backdrop of firearm laws across the country and in Ohio marching in a different direction.
In statehouse after statehouse, gun rights advocates have notched legislative wins that ease restrictions and expand where guns are allowed. Some form of concealed carry is now legal in all 50 states, after coming to Ohio in 2004. Gun rights efforts around the country and in Ohio now center on removing the prohibitions for firearms to be carried in government buildings, college campuses and places such as school zones and houses of worship.
Colleen Kelsey, an organizer of the new Dayton Chapter of the Brady Campaign, said the group formed in January out of frustration with legislators she says give their ear to big financial backers but fail to listen to parents in their communities.
“It seems that the large lobbyists are controlling the decision making, and the public is being ignored,” said Kelsey, of Oakwood. “Currently, 90 percent of all Americans want universal background checks. We are all for this decision, yet it continues to be denied.”
Gun rights activists say what’s being ignored is the ability of law-abiding gun owners to protect themselves and their families from harm wherever they travel, said James Irvine, president of the Buckeye Firearms Association. Ohio is 10-20 years behind a number of states in removing restrictions on where guns can be carried concealed, he said.
“I think we should realize as many other states have and eliminate these places where we collect a bunch of victims that can’t defend themselves,” Irvine said.
Signs on buildings designating areas “gun free zones” advertise easy prey to would-be killers who want “to become famous by setting a new high score by the number of dead people, especially children they kill,” he said.
Organized following a 1999 shooting rampage by a white supremacist at a Jewish community center in Granada Hills, Calif., the first Million Mom March brought 750,000 to Washington, D.C. on Mother’s Day in 2000. The new Dayton Chapter of the Brady Campaign is one of three in Ohio and 94 nationwide. The national association is named after James “Jim” Brady, who was permanently disabled during a 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, and Sarah Brady, who was a leader within the organization that also includes the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
A number of parents who will be taking part in the Sunday march said guns acquired without background checks and firearms improperly stored are factors putting children most at risk.
Erin Holscher Almazan, 39, said she has two boys ages four and eight. Now that her oldest sometimes goes on play dates, she has to ask whether the hosting family keeps guns in the house – and if so, how they are stored.
“I feel that’s in our best interest to do that whether it offends them or not,” she said. Almazan said also gets the same question.
Almazan is also concerned about a bill that already passed the Ohio House and is expected to get a vote in the Senate this session.
“My son’s in day care and I see this House Bill 48 coming up,” she said. “If that passes that’s a real concern to me having a child in a place that ultimately could become an area where people could freely conceal carry.”
House Bill 48 would give Ohio’s public universities the option for concealed carry on campuses and remove prohibitions from day-care facilities and public areas of government facilities including non-secure areas of airports and police stations.
Both sides say the bill, sponsored by Rep. Ron Maag, R-Lebanon, is the most-watched piece of firearm legislation in Columbus. Gun control advocates call his bill a “guns everywhere” proposal while gun rights supporters say it will reduce “gun victim zones.” It’s is one of 13 pieces of legislation introduced this session that would expand gun rights and privileges in Ohio.
In his sponsor testimony, Maag said the bill corrects issues with Ohio’s original concealed carry law that currently and “unnecessarily inhibits a law-abiding citizen’s ability to exercise their Second Amendment right.”
“It is meant to facilitate lawful gun ownership so that citizens are able to protect themselves and their family from crime,” he wrote.
Holding year-old daughter Ann, Elizabeth Herr, 43, of Oakwood said statistically she and her children are in greater danger from a good guy who makes a mistake with a gun than a bad guy.
“Second Amendment rights are touted left and right,” she said. “But actually I feel like I have a right to be places where there aren’t deadly weapons.”
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