Cleveland's Guns Proposal Draws Protests

By
Kabir Bhatia - WKSU/Ohio Public Radio


Updated Mon, Jul 14, 2014 11:53 am

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson is proposing several pieces of gun control legislation this Wednesday to City Council. People on both sides of the issue were in Public Square over the weekend.

Jackson’s proposals include a registry for anyone convicted of a gun offenses, as well as prohibitions and regulations related to the sale of firearms.

Jonathan O’Connor is with grassroots group Ohio Carry, based in Columbus. He was among the roughly 60 people milling around in Public Square Sunday afternoon, some with handguns holstered openly at their waists or assault weapons slung over their shoulders.

He said Jackson’s proposals are trumped by the Ohio Revised Code.

“He is trying to bring in laws that, in many cases, already exist in state and federal laws. And some others that are stricter than state and federal law, which is against state law to do. And that will just result in them being challenged the second they’re on the books.”

Similar situations have occurred in Clyde, near Sandusky, in Oberlin and even in Cleveland. All of the cities have so far fought expensive legal battles with gun rights advocates - and had limited to no success challenging state law. That’s why O’Connor said he’s not sure why Jackson is pushing the issue again.

“I feel that this is just a way of a politician putting something out there that sounds like it’s going to solve the problem. But in the end, it’s won’t actually do anything. There are other problems – social problems, economic problems that are the cause of violence – that actually are the root causes. But they don’t have a solution for that.”

The gun-rights advocates were on the southeast corner of Public Square. On the southwest side of the square, about 20 people held signs supporting gun control and Jackson’s proposals. Their group – Open Carry Guitar - is led by Ariel Clayton.

“Cities, which are so unique to their own cultural region, should have the autonomy to adapt their own laws to fit the needs of their city. And if Cleveland has a higher crime rate than rural Ohio or Medina or Toledo or Cincinnati, [then] they should be able to take steps to try to address it. At least to try.”

Clayton said she’s most interested in two of Jackson’s proposals related to kids and guns. One restricts access to guns in the home for children, and the other restricts discharging firearms in schools.

“I teach violin in multiple schools. In East Cleveland at the end of this school year, there was a child shot in the head at home. Jackson wants to try to create restrictions for how to lock up a gun to keep them away from minors. Are you really going to march down to City Hall to try to sue for that?”

Clayton said a dialogue between the two sides would help, but it was not possible over the weekend. Police kept the groups separated on opposite ends of Public Square. That does not help things, according to Satinder Pal Singh Puri, a retired engineer who came after reading about the event on Facebook.

“You should be allowed to mix together. That is not a way to conduct a civil discussion. So what I did was just go talk to a lot of people on the other side. They may have views which we may find quite repulsive, but they stand by them and you just listen to their reasoning. I said, ‘Why is [not] one gun enough?’ They said, ‘No we want six guns.’ Good, if the law says you can buy six guns, go ahead and buy six guns. If it is legal for you to carry a gun, in the state of Ohio or in Cleveland, then go ahead. A lot of us feel very uncomfortable and say there is no need. But we’ll get used to it.”

Cleveland has tried similar restrictions in recent years, part of Jackson’s plans to curb gun violence in the city. The town of Clyde, near Sandusky, was in a similar situation and spent about $70,000 before calling it quits. The city of Oberlin agreed to rescind its laws banning guns in public parks after demonstrations last fall, but is still exploring alternative legal avenues, such as reclassifying the parks as school property.

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