Ohio Calls for Action as Gun Violence is on the Rise
The Ohio Gun Violence Prevention Caucus calls for action, holding their first meeting after a weekend of four mass shootings, two of which occurred in Ohio. On Saturday, there was a shooting in Columbus, leaving one teen dead and seven others injured. On Sunday, a shooting in Youngstown left three people dead and at least three more injured.
The caucus was formed with the purpose of instituting more gun safety measures in Ohio. It has also been noted that no Republican members have joined the caucus so far. What can be done to keep gun violence from rising? Read on to find out more about what the caucus discussed.
Why is gun violence on the rise?
Ohio senator Cecil Thomas claims that the increase of gun sales during the pandemic contributed to rising levels of gun violence seen today.
“During COVID, we saw in this country an increase in the number of guns on our streets in the tens of millions...combine it with the economic concerns people are going through and other COVID concerns...seeing increases of violence should not come as a surprise to anyone."
In 2020, homicides and non-suicide-related shootings saw a 25 percent increase. There were about 4,000 more firearm deaths and around 9,000 more firearm-related injuries in 2020 than 2019. According to Everytown, an estimated 22 million guns were purchased in 2020, which is 64 percent more than in 2019. The pandemic’s impact on the economy, causing the loss of jobs, was strongly felt, especially in communities of color. Areas with higher unemployment or poverty have higher rates of gun violence.
Sen. Thomas also condemns the controversial “stand your ground” law that went into effect just last month. The law states that gun owners no longer need to retreat from a perceived threat before opening fire. Although this new law is meant to emphasize the right to self-defense, it also encourages people to shoot before asking questions.
Ethan Nichols, executive director of Ohio Students for Gun Legislation, sees “stand your ground” as a danger to minority communities. "It's a racist law," Nichols said. "I think for Ohioans that this is, very obviously, a step in the wrong direction. This is a step backwards into another century."
Efforts to combat gun violence
Gov. Mike Dewine has been pushing to modify gun legislation since 2019. His proposals, called STRONG Ohio, include stronger penalties for felons carrying guns illegally and stricter background checks. Additionally, state house Democrats have proposed laws for safer gun storage and more rigorous background checks as well.
However, the proposals have been ignored by the dominantly Republican House. Meanwhile, let’s hope that the Democrats and Dewine get through to the House so they can work to prevent any more lives from being lost due to gun violence.