Mayors to legislators: stop stand your ground and ‘do something’ to stop gun violence

This guest column by Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Thursday, Dec. 17.

Credit: Amelia Robinson

Credit: Amelia Robinson

As state lawmakers consider a “stand your ground” bill, we — Mayors Dan Horrigan of Akron, Andrew J. Ginther of Columbus, John Cranley of Cincinnati, Nan Whaley of Dayton, Wade Kapszukiewicz of Toledo and Jamael Tito Brown of Youngstown — stand together in opposition.

On August 4, 2019, Gov. Mike DeWine came to Dayton to address a grieving crowd hours after the tragic shooting in the Oregon District that killed nine people and wounded 17. While he spoke he was drowned out by chants of “Do something!”

This chant was meant for the state legislature and every leader in Ohio as much as it was for the governor.

In the year since the Dayton shooting, it is estimated that nearly 1,500 people have been shot and killed in Ohio. Across the state, cities have seen a record number of incidents of gun violence. Homicide with a firearm has increased by 27% for the first six months of 2020 in Ohio — and Cincinnati, Akron, Columbus, Dayton and Cleveland, collectively, have seen a 17% increase in violent crimes with a firearm. And this gun violence is disproportionately impacting Black communities.

As mayors, we grapple with the problem of gun violence in our communities on a daily basis.

That is why we are members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and are urging the General Assembly to pass common-sense gun safety legislation and put a stop to the efforts to pass “stand your ground” — a policy that would allow people to shoot to kill in public, even when there is a clear and safe alternative.

Despite fierce opposition from police chiefs across the state and mounting evidence that stand-your-ground laws increase homicide rates and exacerbate gun violence, the legislature continues moving forward on Senate Bill 383; the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee passed the bill out of committee on Wednesday and it is expected to receive a vote on the Senate floor very soon.

At least 30 people nationwide are killed each month as a result of stand-your-ground laws and they are disproportionately persons of color. The policy is known for helping white shooters avoid criminal prosecution and putting Black people at further risk of gun violence. When white shooters kill Black victims, the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable 11 times more frequently than when the shooter is Black and the victim is white.

After the calls to “do something,” we thought that maybe we had turned a corner toward gun safety. There was bipartisan support behind “red flag” legislation — a policy that can help prevent mass shootings. Lawmakers also introduced a bill to require background checks on all firearm purchases, a common sense, popular policy that is proven to reduce gun violence and create safer communities.

Unfortunately, what we have seen since the shooting in Dayton is not only inaction, but relentless efforts to instead pass dangerous legislation to weaken our gun laws.

As local officials on the front lines of our gun violence crisis, we are asking our leaders to put a stop to stand-your-ground. We are asking them to instead do something about the gun violence in our communities that is killing, wounding and traumatizing children, families, and entire cities across our state.

We are asking them to do something to protect the Black men and women, children and trans and LGBTQ+ Ohioans who are disproportionately killed by gun violence

We are asking them to do something that we can all be proud of. Our state is depending on them.

Nan Whaley is mayor of Dayton. She wrote this with mayors Dan Horrigan of Akron, Andrew J. Ginther of Columbus, John Cranley of Cincinnati, Wade Kapszukiewicz of Toledo and Jamael Tito Brown of Youngstown. This column first appeared in the Columbus Dispatch. It is printed here with Whaley’s permission.

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