Ohio mayors, police chiefs call for changes to state gun laws

Police chiefs and mayors from a dozen Ohio cities, including Dayton, Kettering, Springfield and Middletown, on Thursday joined gun control advocacy groups to back Gov. Mike DeWine as the Cedarville Republican tries to make good on his promise to “Do Something” after the mass shooting in Dayton.

They pledged to keep the pressure on lawmakers, gain strength and not allow momentum to dwindle.

“The tragedy that happened in Dayton was felt throughout the entire Miami Valley region,” said Kettering Mayor Don Patterson, a Republican. “The legislature must put aside their differences and come together to support Gov. DeWine’s initiatives to help reduce gun violence.”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat and co-founder of the Ohio Mayors Alliance, said the sheer number of mass shootings and gun deaths is leading the country to a tipping point.

“More and more, it’s becoming that everyone knows someone who has died at the hand of a gun. 100 people die every day in this country from a gun. That’s unacceptable. I think we are seeing a sea change, really,” she said at a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse. “Voters are demanding a change. I think it happened in the 2018 election. I think it’ll affect the 2020 election if nothing is done.”

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, who is co-sponsoring multiple gun control bills, said it’s a myth that politicians who oppose gun control are beholden to the National Rifle Association’s campaign contributions; instead, NRA endorsement drives its members to vote for candidates, which can be enough to determine who wins.

“There is nothing that speaks louder to politicians than the fact that they’re going to win an election. To counter that, we have to make it very, very clear that for every voter who votes for the NRA’s agenda, there is 10 of you who vote against it,” said Lehner.

Behind the scenes, DeWine is building a coalition to apply political pressure to conservatives in the Ohio General Assembly who oppose gun restrictions. The governor and his allies are reaching out to local elected officials, law enforcement leaders, children’s hospitals and other health care organizations, faith leaders, labor organizations, business groups and others.

Related: Can Mike DeWine get gun reforms passed through the Legislature?

Related: Ohio Senate begins debate on 7 gun control bills

In the coming weeks, DeWine is expected to unveil specifics on his 17-point plan, including bills that would expand and strengthen gun purchase background checks and would create a “safety protection order” to allow police or family to get a court order to seize firearms from those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Gun rights groups generally oppose such laws, saying they’re ineffective and infringe on both 2nd and 4th amendment constitutional rights.

The debate over gun control comes six weeks after a gunman killed nine people and injured 27 in a mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District, the deadliest mass shooting in modern Ohio history. Dayton police on routine patrol are credited with stopping the shooter in 32 seconds.

Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said “Even with virtually instantaneous engagement, swift, decisive, courageous action – ending a mass shooting in 32 seconds. Still, nine killed, 16 additional gun shot victims, another 20-plus flight injuries. It’s not enough…More is needed to be done and it’s not by law enforcement.”

In 2006, Ohio legislators changed state law to pre-empt local jurisdictions from having their own firearms regulations.

Middletown Mayor Larry Mulligan, Jr. said gun violence isn’t limited to mass shootings but includes homicides and suicides. He noted that a study shows that gun violence costs Ohio $2.7 billion a year in health care, law enforcement and other expenses.

Whitney Austin, who survived being shot 12 times in the mass shooting in downtown Cincinnati on Sept. 6, 2018, said: “We need to not give up. We need to work hard on those legislators that are just not there with us yet. And who knows why they are not but we need to bring them into the fold and do everything we can to save lives.”

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