Law-abiding high school students age 18 years or older should be able to carry long guns inside public high schools, state Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, told the Dayton Daily News in an interview Thursday.
The issue came up during a Twitter dispute Wednesday between the state lawmaker and Zach Dickerson, a Democratic primary candidate for the District 42 seat Antani currently holds.
Antani has long advocated allowing college students to carry firearms on campuses, but the shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., have injected into the national conversation a new round of debate about the place of weapons in American high schools.
Antani maintains he was not advocating arming high school students, but rather said students should have the option of carrying long guns in school if they meet the legal criteria to do so.
“The law is anybody above 21 can have a handgun and anybody above 18 can have a long gun, and so anyone who complies with the law should be able to carry and protect themselves,” Antani told the Daily News. “If you look at what happened many decades ago, people brought their firearms to school. They kept them in their cars, maybe, but there was not a problem.”
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“My view is that anyone who is of age should be able to carry a firearm wherever they want,” Antani said. “The only restriction I believe in is for private property.”
Antani cited a “cultural difference” between urban and rural communities for differing opinions about guns.
“You go out to Valley View, in my district, you go shooting against a rock in your backyard … it’s part of the culture there, it’s not a big deal,” Antani said. “Of course, in inner-city Dayton Public it would be a big deal, but there is a cultural difference … In rural America, there is a culture of carrying firearms safely. In any urban area, such as Dayton Public, there is not. In Dayton, unfortunately, there is a lot of gang violence, and firearms are used improperly.”
Antani is a co-sponsor of House Bill 233, a bill that would allow a concealed handgun licensee or military member to carry a deadly weapon into a gun-free zone, and avoid punishment, so long as the person leaves upon request and doesn’t return with the weapon within 30 days.
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Both Antani and Dickerson said they own guns and hold concealed carry licenses. But Dickerson, a first-time candidate, said Antani is advocating “dangerous and dumb gun policy.”
“I think that is irresponsible, and I think a vast majority of both parents, students and school officials would agree with me,” said Dickerson. “I support gun ownership, but I think there’s a balance to be struck between public safety and the Second Amendment.”
“I think he is firmly cemented in his position that any restriction or sensible gun law is a bad one,” he said.
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