State Reps. Ted Celeste and Tracy Maxwell Heard held a press conference highlighting the litany of current and pending gun-related bills under consideration in the General Assembly that put public safety and law enforcement officers in harms way. They were joined by Toby Hoover, Executive Director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence; Brian Rothenberg, Executive Director of Progress Ohio; and Rev. Tim Ahrens of the First Congregational Church.
Under the backdrop of a “Machine Gun Social” fundraiser flyer sent out by State Rep. Margaret Conditt in which supporters are invited to shoot automatic firearms – including an M60 machine gun – Rep. Celeste expressed his concern over the message conveyed by the flyer so soon after three students were killed by an armed gunman in Chardon High School. This was the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. since 2005.
The speakers have signed onto a letter they plan to send to Rep. Conditt requesting that she cancel the event. The letter will also be sent to Governor John Kasich, House Speaker William Batchelder, and Ohio Republican Party Chair Bob Bennett.
“In this General Assembly alone, we’ve seen at least nine separate bills that pose a danger to public safety,” said Rep. Celeste. “To parade about a fundraiser where supporters can shoot semi-automatic weapons for pleasure is distasteful and offensive to the memory of those students who were senselessly killed.”
Rep. Heard echoed his statements, and spoke to House Bill 263, legislation she’s introduced that would close a “gun show loophole” that allows criminals to purchase firearms at gun shows without undergoing a background check.
“I am not opposed to private citizens owning guns. I am, however, gravely concerned about the escalating incidents of gun violence in this state and specifically in urban areas like my district – District 26,” said Rep. Heard. “It is our responsibility to ensure safety in our communities, and to fail to address what we know to have been an oversight that created a loophole which allows criminals and even terrorists to purchase guns illegally that end up on our city streets is a reckless disregard of our charge as legislators.”
Toby Hoover, Executive Director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, said current legislation under consideration in Ohio poses a serious threat to the safety of children and law enforcement officers who risk their lives everyday. “Our families have the right to be free from gun violence,” said Hoover. “The gun lobby’s vision for Ohio is any gun, anyone, anywhere, and then let them be judge and jury if they feel threatened. These laws are threats to our freedom from violence.”
Brian Rothenberg, Executive Director of Progress Ohio, referenced statistics from a March 2012 report by the Children’s Defense Fund, pointing out that more children and teens died as a result of gun violence in 2008 and 2009 – 5,750 – than the number of US military personnel killed in action in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
Rothenberg also took aim at the fundraiser flyer, pointing out the insensitivity of the phrase “Bring Your Own Gun.” “There is a level of maturity and common sense that is lacking in this invitation,” said Rothenberg. “It hasn’t been done before and there is a reason for it. Legislators need to be cognizant that this type of radical single issue politics leads to irresponsible laws like ‘Stand your ground’ in Florida. She should really cancel this event, it demeans the office.”
Rev. Tim Ahrens of First Congregational Church also cited the report, and argued that lawmakers must stop gun violence if Ohio’s children are going to have a prayer of hope and a future without fear. “In a nation where number of preschoolers killed by guns in 2008 (88) and in 2009 (85) was nearly double the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2008 (41) and 2009 (48), we don’t need to arm more people and allow for more freedom to carry individual weapons of mass destruction.”
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