YOUNGSTOWN – Brittany Bailey wonders why most 18-year-olds can’t legally obtain tobacco products or drink alcohol, but can easily get their hands on deadly weapons.
“Access to firearms shouldn’t be so easy. Why can’t you drink until you’re 21, when at 18 you’re quite capable of affording a gun? Bailey, a senior at Youngstown State University and member of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past, asked.
She was one of many community activists, clergy and elected officials who spoke out against Ohio House Bill 99 and Ohio Senate Bill 215, two gun bills on fire, during a press conference Thursday at Homestead Park on East Dewey Avenue on the South Side.
The host of the hour-long gathering was the Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee of the Mahoning Valley. Acting as moderator was the Reverend Kenneth L. Simon, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church and committee member.
The park was the scene of recent gun violence when Isiah Walker, 16, from Youngstown, was shot dead on May 31. The investigation is continuing.
HB 99 allows individual school districts to have local control over training requirements for teachers to be armed and for school boards to require those teachers to complete up to 24 hours of training before they can carry a firearm on school property. The previous law, as well as a state Supreme Court ruling, required 700 hours of training.
There are teachers, teachers’ unions, gun violence advocates, Fraternal Order of Police organizations and others who oppose the law, saying that insufficiently trained teachers – especially when ‘they are under extreme duress – are more likely to harm students or other innocent bystanders than to stop an active shooter.
Many Republicans, as well as the gun lobby and a few school districts, support it, saying it will make rural districts in the state safer without school resource officers away from first responders.
The law, passed largely along party lines, goes into effect in September.
SB 215, which went into effect June 13 and is often referred to as “constitutional carry,” allows people 21 or older who are otherwise legally capable of carrying a handgun to carry it concealed without a concealed carry permit. . In addition, permit holders will no longer need to carry such a permit, and persons arrested by the police are not required to inform officers that they are armed, unless specifically requested.
Gun rights advocates want to see fewer restrictions on the Second Amendment. Additionally, the leadership of the Buckeye Firearms Association has stated that the people of Ohio will find that the dire predictions will not come true.
The previous law required Ohioans to complete an eight-hour course, including two hours at a shooting range, to be allowed to carry a concealed handgun.
“Imagine being a policeman and not knowing someone has a gun. Imagine how bad it could get,” planning committee member Jaladah Aslam said, adding, “Teachers are not paid to do respect the law.
Calling it “a serious accident waiting to happen,” Aslam said HB 99 will not make students or school staff any safer.
HB 99 also ignores the psychological impact on a teacher who accidentally shoots a colleague, student or other staff member in a split-second effort to stop an armed intruder, Diane Gonda noted. , a teacher at Chaney High School.
“When you pull the trigger, that bullet has your name on it,” said Gonda, who also took an eight-hour concealed carry course and felt it provided inadequate training. “A school is like a petri dish for things that could go wrong.”
Youngstown Police Chief Carl Davis, who has been in law enforcement for 36 years and who has noted that the law puts officers at greater risk, is also adamantly opposed to SB 215. Even police officers who undergo rigorous training and have extensive experience must make split-second decisions when dealing with an active shooter, Davis pointed out.
“In my opinion, this new law makes it harder for police to enforce gun laws” and makes them less safe, the chief said.
In her moving speech, State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, recalled thinking it was impossible for HB 99 to pass, as well as how quickly DeWine enacted the legislation “without understanding how it will harm communities.” She also implored people to exercise their right to vote, a sentiment strongly echoed by Councilwoman Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward, who recently lost a relative to the violence.
“More guns is not the solution,” said Penny Wells, who taught for many years in schools in the city of Youngstown and is also the executive director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past.
More people need to stand up for what they believe is right, speak out against these laws and never give up hope, she added.
The MLK Planning Committee recommends individuals. in the August state representative election, weed out those who support the two gun laws; vote for representatives who will work to repeal both laws; calling state officials to express concern and opposition to HB 99 and SB 215; contact local school district superintendents to urge them not to allow their teachers and other staff to be armed on school property; and vote in August and all local and national elections.