Divide over gun debate involved a volley of form letters, records show

Makeshifts memorial can still be seen in the Oregon District nearly three months after the Aug. 4, 2019 mass shooting in which nine people were killed and 27 injured. Residents and business owners say they are still dealing with the trauma caused by the killings.
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Makeshifts memorial can still be seen in the Oregon District nearly three months after the Aug. 4, 2019 mass shooting in which nine people were killed and 27 injured. Residents and business owners say they are still dealing with the trauma caused by the killings.

In the days and weeks following the Dayton mass shooting, hundreds of letters and emails poured into Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, asking the Glenford Republican to pass gun control measures.

In dozens of cases, it amounted to an exchange of form letters.

Pro-gun control writers sent nearly identical letters to Householder, calling for universal background checks and a red flag law.

In response, public records requested by the Dayton Daily News shows Householder’s staff sent the same one-page form letter that said the current system works, existing laws should be enforced, additional laws aren’t needed.

“Recently, law enforcement apprehended a young man in Youngstown who had made threats against a Jewish community center. They took him off the streets and confiscated his weapons; we are all safer for it. That system worked, and we need to find ways to improve that system, not add laws,” Householder’s letter said.

RELATED: White nationalist arrested after making threats against Jewish community center, police say

The response casts doubt on whether a plan advanced by Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted has a chance to become law. The House speaker has the power to block or advance any bill.

Householder, who appeared in an election ad wearing camouflage and using a long gun to blast apart a television, is a life member of the National Rifle Association and boasts an A-plus rating from the NRA.

DeWine’s bill is currently pending in the Ohio Senate, where it has received a chilly reception from both sides of the gun debate. DeWine has named it as a top priority for 2020.

The bill seeks to expand the use of “pink slips” to authorize 72-hour hospitalizations of people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others to include those suffering from chronic alcoholism or drug addiction. The bill would also establish a state-run voluntary background check system for people selling firearms to private parties. It also seeks to improve existing background check procedures.

RELATED: Can DeWine get his gun proposals through the Legislature?

RELATED: DeWine talks about his first year as governor, work to do in 2020

Not all the messages to Householder were form letters and not all advocated for gun control.

For example, Joseph Rieger wrote in September: “I heard today you are taking up mike dewines guns grabing democrat love affair…I will work hard to defeat in 2020 any republican who works with the democrats to spit on the US Constitution.”

Advocates for gun rights and gun control sent letters to DeWine as well. More than 3,400 people — most from Ohio but some from states such as Arizona, Idaho and Alabama — wrote to DeWine about gun violence, records obtained by the Dayton Daily News show.

RELATED: Calls for action flood DeWine’s office after Dayton shooting

And some Ohioans pushed back against Householder’s form letter. Jasmine Shroff fired back an email from her iPhone, calling the speaker’s response inadequate and praising Dayton police for quickly stopping the shooter.

“The speaker has a responsibility to be part of the solution and not continue to be part of the problem. It is shameful” Shroff wrote.