A police motorcade escorts the bodies of Westerville Police officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering.
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The fatal shootings of two police officers in Westerville, Ohio, happened only a little over a week ago, and yet they were soon almost forgotten examples of senseless violence perpetrated by an unstable person with a gun.
New atrocities had occurred.
A Chicago police commander was killed three days later when he confronted a suspect.
And then Parkland happened. And 17 beautiful young people were scrificed on the altar of Second Amendment absolutism.
In the absence of responsible action by lawmakers — to ban semi-automatic weapons and other modified weapons of war — police, prosecutors, and judges need to commit to more zealous and proactive regimes of enforcing existing gun laws — to keep weapons out of the hands of psychos.
Quentin Smith, 30, the alleged killer of Officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli, in Westerville, was a convicted felon who served three years in prison for aggravated burglary with a gun specificiation and domestic violence.
In November, his wife, Candace Smith, told police that he threatened to kill her and that he had a gun. She told them that he had a friend in a Cleveland suburb buy the gun, for which Smith provided the money.
Police responded, conducting a search of Smith’s person and car, and coming up empty-handed.
Two days after the shooting, the U.S. Attorney’s office charged Gerald A. Lawson III, 30, of Warrensville Heights, with acting as a straw purchaser for Smith. Lawson was paid $100 by Smith to buy the gun in Broadview Heights, another Cleveland suburb. Lawson faces up to 10 years in prison and deserves every minute of whatever sentence he gets.
Current federal law prohibits convicted felons from possessing guns and makes it illegal for a straw purchaser to buy a gun. Federal law also prohibits someone who has been adjudicated mentally ill from possessing a gun.There is no law in Ohio preventing the purchase of a firearm or possession by violent misdemeanants or persons under domestic violence restraining orders. Those would seem to be obvious loopholes to plug, and would give police additional tools.
Police are damned if they do too much and damned if they do too little to stop wingnuts with guns, and it would be presumptuous and wrong, at a time when the Westerville department is grieving the loss of two stellar officers, to nitpick past investigations.
Going forward, however, police and prosecutors should put the highest possible priority on enforcing the gun laws that already exist.
When they have the authority to take a person’s guns away because of his criminal or mental health history, they should do it.
In Toledo, Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and Police Chief George Kral have launched “Not In My House,” which allows family members to turn in a weapon found in their homes. That is a good tool as well.
The accused mass killer at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was known by students, school authorities, those who saw his Facebook postings, and the FBI to be unhinged and gun obsessed. Law enforcement must be encouraged and empowered to act in a preventive mode whenever possible.
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