Jennifer Thorne is the executive director of Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, a statewide nonprofit working to prevent gun violence through education, advocacy, and public awareness.
I was extremely saddened to learn the news of the shootings at Madison Jr./Sr. High School in Butler County this week. A teenage classmate of the victims obtained a dangerous weapon and opened fire in the school cafeteria, according to officials. Although four students injured in the incident suffered non-fatal injuries, they will certainly carry their trauma through their lives.
When are lawmakers going to do something about the reckless availability of firearms in our communities?
Why aren’t there better safeguards to protect our families?
Why do lawmakers continue to pander to the profit-seeking motives of the gun lobby and gun manufacturers?
All too often, the response from our elected officials in these situations is to offer thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families when more can -- and should -- be done. Additional action is needed to prevent gun violence and keep deadly weapons out of the hands of our children. Approximately two-thirds of guns used in school shootings are obtained in the attacker's home or at the home of a relative, which also appears to be the source of the gun in these shootings.
Arming Teachers is Irresponsible
Gun-lobby advocates have convinced some Ohio school districts that secretly arming school staff with hidden, loaded weapons is a solution to incidents like this one. I reject this. This irresponsible, intentional placement of more deadly weapons into what should be nurturing, safe environments that educate young Ohioans is a dangerous step and can make the role of law enforcement in active shootings even more difficult. Instead, our schools should focus on conversations with parents about safer storage and ways to foster a culture of peace.
I also reject the dismissal by gun-lobby advocates that “you can’t legislate evil out of someone’s heart.” While common sense gun regulations may not stop all acts of violence, it does not mean that we should give up, and accept that our children will grow up in a culture of violence and fear. Additionally, states that have stronger gun laws have lower rates of gun violence.
Rep. Maag's Reckless Legislation
There are common sense legislative proposals that have been already introduced in the General Assembly, but are being passed over in favor of gun-lobby backed bills.
A reasonable Child Access Prevention bill, HB 75, which would hold adults accountable if a minor gains unauthorized access to a firearm that is not stored in a safe manner, has been stalled since last spring by Rep. Ron Maag (R-Lebanon), chair of the House States Government Committee, since last spring. Similar legislation received the same treatment in previous years. Unsurprisingly, Rep. Maag has a 100 percent rating from the National Rifle Association.
Rather than giving this Child Access Prevention bill a chance at fair hearings, Rep. Maag has chosen to advance HB 48, his own gun-lobby backed bill. This bill would remove many of the reasonable restrictions on where hidden, loaded guns may legally be carried, including allowing guns to be stored in locked (but still relatively easy to access by unauthorized persons) vehicles in school parking lots.
This reckless bill would do nothing to make Ohioans safer, and only serve to normalize guns in our public spaces, and increase the culture of fear the gun lobby promotes to increase the profits of it’s clients: gun manufacturers.
Remember, every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.