COLUMBUS — On Thursday, just as they were headed for the door for the holidays, Ohio lawmakers put the finishing touches on a bill making it easier to store firearms in cars and allowing them for the first time in parking garages under the Statehouse and a nearby office tower.
MICHIGAN LAW HIGHLIGHTS
Less than 24 hours later, Adam Lanza walked into a Connecticut elementary school and opened fire with guns he took from his slain mother, killing 26 students and teachers. The shooting has ripped wide open the national debate over access to guns and caught House Bill 495 on its way to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s desk in the crosshairs.
His office said Monday it had received in excess of 200 e-mails on the issue. Despite this, the Republican governor will sign the bill.
“I’m a Second Amendment supporter, and that’s not going to change,” he said. “There are a range of issues at play here involving mental health, school security, and a culture that at times fails to reject the glorification of violence that can desensitize us to the sanctity and majesty of life.
“Going forward, we need to pay close attention to what the experts conclude from this incident in order to see if there are lessons to be learned and applied here in Ohio,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Michigan, the American Federation of Teachers is urging Gov. Rick Snyder to veto just-passed Senate Bill 59, which expands the locations where concealed pistols could be carried to include schools, college dormitories, bars, and sports stadiums.
“Firearms have absolutely no place in our schools — the Dec. 14, 2012, tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., is a chilling and heartbreaking reminder of this,” reads a letter to Mr. Snyder signed by AFT President Randy Weingarten and AFT Michigan President David Hecker.
Snyder spokesman Sara Wurfel stressed Michigan Senate Bill 59 has yet to reach the governor’s desk.
“That said, Governor Snyder had indicated that even before Friday's tragic events that this bill was already going to be undergoing a careful review and analysis,” she said. “He also said these heartbreaking situations like Connecticut always must and should give pause as they're so tragic, but that we can't jump to conclusions either.”
Guns are off limits in Ohio’s schools, and Ohio House Bill 495 on its way to Mr. Kasich’s desk would not change that.
“There’s nothing in (House Bill) 495 that has to do with schools or school zones, but I understand that the anti-gun people will use this,” said Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association. “It’s their MO, connecting things that shouldn’t be connected, to make emotional arguments.
“They will use this tragedy for political gain,” he said. “It’s not that they don’t care about kids. That’s not what I’m saying… It’s just that, for whatever reason, they’ll get caught up in the emotion and try to use that, while we want to look at facts.”
Gun rights advocates have argued that having a gun in the hands of a trained person in a school could stop a gunman and reduce the number of lost lives.
Toby Hoover, executive director of the Toledo-based Ohioans Against Gun Violence, said the two governors should veto their respective bills as part of a much broader national debate.
“There’s so much going on throughout this country,” she said. “When we’re losing our children, it’s time everybody stepped up to the plate. We don’t need to have guns everywhere. It’s time we face facts that we’ve been making guns our number-one priority over kids.
“Does a person need to have an assault weapon? No,” Ms. Hoover said. “The majority of Americans agree. The guns are in homes where somebody who is in trouble, who has an alcohol problem, or a drug problem, or an emotional problem, or an anger problem has access to them.”
Ohio’s current concealed carry law allows someone who meets certain residency, training, criminal background, and mental health requirements to get permits. The law places off limits such places as schools, public daycare centers, courthouses, airport terminals, and any privately-owned property that posts signs declaring themselves to be gun-free.
Michigan’s law is generally similar, although Ohio’s training requirements are among the strictest in the nation and Ohio has already approved carrying in bars as long as the permit-holder isn’t drinking.
The city of Toledo has no municipal restrictions or a required registration for firearms, including handguns, rifles, or assault rifles.
"Cases in the cities of Cleveland and Clyde, Ohio have significantly restricted municipal home rule on the issue of gun legislation," said Jen Sorgenfrei, spokesman for Toledo Mayor Mike Bell. "The city's hands are tied at this point by a very broad law and by civil suits that have been filed in other areas of the state on the issue."
Mayor Bell said the federal government needs to "step up and address the issue."
"It makes no sense for Toledo to establish one law when all the surrounding cities could establish separate policies. It needs to be consistent," he said.
Staff writer Ignazio Messina contributed to this article.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.