Area residents present petition for gun control

Violence can happen any where at any time and a Marietta woman is hoping that a ban on assault rifles and high capacity ammunition will help stem the number of shootings and deaths.

Teresa Porter met with U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, on Monday with a petition signed by 150 Washington County residents, asking for bipartisan legislation to be written to ban the weapons.

She said she doesn’t think the discussion did much good.

“Rep. Johnson attempted to blame the mass shootings on mental health laws, which I countered with my 30 years as a mental health professional, treating patients who were more often a danger to themselves than to the public,” she said.

Benjamin Keeler, communication director for Johnson, said the congressman is all for working with anyone, Republican or Democrat, to look for practical solutions to mass shootings and gun violence.

“Yesterday’s meeting with Mrs. Porter is just one example of that,” he said.

Porter said in the past, changes were made to higher powered guns to make them legal, but it didn’t make them any less lethal.

“The issue is not whether or not you can have a gun,” she said. “It’s the kind of gun.”

Porter said government officials don’t want to pass gun control laws because they don’t see how people are affected by gun violence.

“People are being traumatized who haven’t been through these mass shootings,” she explained. “They work in an environment with metal detectors. They are insulated from the reality of everyday life. The rest of us live in the real world.”

Keeler said Johnson regularly meets with whose who request in-person access across his 18-county district.

“Sometimes they agree, and sometimes they don’t,” he said. “When you represent more than 720,000 people, there are going to be different opinions on important issues from time to time.”

The Gun Violence Archive, which is a nonprofit that provides free access to information about gun-related violence, notes that since Aug. 1, there have been 42 people killed and 188 injured in mass shootings in the U.S.

In her letter to Johnson, Porter said that the loss of life and serious injury continues to climb in America as the result of more frequent and more deadly mass shootings. These mass murders have occurred in schools, places of worship, theaters, music festivals and now the ubiquitous Walmart store. Americans can no longer hide from the fact that anyone, at any time may become the victim of a mass shooting.

She said believes that universal background checks and red flag laws are important, but curbing the supply of high capacity arms is the best way to make it more difficult for mass shootings to occur.

“Regardless of the type of weapon, the ability to fire round after round into a crowd or at law enforcement greatly increased the lethality of mass shootings. No longer is accuracy a prerequisite for murder as simply spraying endless rounds guarantees the desired outcome for the shooter,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican in the Ohio’s 10th Congressional District Republican, said he is now in favor of a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines. The congressman, who represents Dayton, credits his change of mind to the realization that his own daughter was across the street from the most recent mass murder in Dayton. The shooter there killed nine people in about 30 seconds and wounded others. Those opposed to certain types of weaponry say while they recognize the guns are not the cause of the shootings, they do lead to a greater number of deaths.

Marietta Police Chief Rodney Hupp said he does not believe assault weapons should be the focus in curbing mass shootings.

“We have built and bred a very sick culture, a Godless culture and it’s manifesting itself in these active shooter situations,” he said.

“You don’t ban automobiles because of automobile deaths, You don’t ban alcohol because of OVIs,” he said. “This may sound callous, but to some extent, death and injury are a part of life in a free society.”

Keeler said Johnson is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, along with being a veteran and a holder of a concealed-carry permit.

“In the aftermath of public violence, whether it’s with a gun or any other mode designed to harm innocent people, and regardless of the number of innocent lives destroyed, Bill believes strongly that the most important response must be to love, respect, support,and stand by the victims and their families,” Keeler explained. “What he is not in favor of is ‘doing something’ just for the sake of ‘doing something’ just to make everyone feel better, while failing to address the root causes of violence in America.”

He said Johnson strongly believes that constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens can’t be violated while trying to address gun violence.

“He supported the Trump Administration when it rightly banned bump stocks and strengthened national background checks after the tragic shooting in Las Vegas,” Keeler said. “And, he often reminds folks that automatic weapons are already banned by federal law, and that every commercial firearm sale in America requires a federally mandated background check.”

Hupp said you can’t look at the issue in a vacuum and see the cause of mass shootings.

But Porter is convinced assault weapons are nothing more than weapons of war.

“The most concerning excuse offered by Rep. Johnson occurred when I described the need to discern the difference between weapons of war and other guns. I cited the 1934 ban on fully automatic assault weapons as well as other laws which prohibit civilian possession of tanks, grenade launchers and missile launchers,” she said. “Rep. Johnson informed me that he was not in Congress when those bans were passed. The implication seems to be that had he been, he would have voted against those bans too. It is a sad day in our democracy when this is the best defense a member of Congress can offer to one of the biggest perceived threats to the lives of his constituents.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

At a glance:

• Area residents signed a petition asking for legislation to be written to ban assault rifles and high capacity ammunition.

• Teresa Porter, of Marietta, met Monday with U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson about the legislation.

• Since Aug. 1, there have been 42 people killed and 188 injured in mass shootings in the U.S.

Source: Times research.