During the course of researching gun laws, lawmakers, and candidates for LEAP Forward, I'm struck not only at the policy gap between Democratic candidates and Republicans when it comes to firearms legislation, but also the thoughtfulness gap. By and large, Republicans have a very simple message when it comes to guns: more of them is not a bad thing. In fact, more guns isn't only a good thing to them, it's a necessary thing. This simple message is part of their advantage - it leaves little room for nuance, it's easily digestible, and it's easy to legislate.
Take the three biggest pieces of legislation I graded in Ohio last year: HB 79, SB 142, and HB 233. All of them fit that simple message. More guns (HB 79 arms EMTs); more places (SB 142 does away with a requirement that citizens with concealed weapons notify police that they are armed if they are stopped); and fewer regulations (HB 233 lets someone carrying a firearm in a prohibited location to leave without penalty if they're asked.)
Simple message, dangerous legislation. But in order to address this incredibly complex issue, we need candidates and lawmakers willing to give firearms laws the thought they deserve. Some things deserve deeper thought.
Fortunately, once again there is a candidate willing to dedicate that kind of thought to the issue - special education teacher and candidate for Ohio House of Representatives Clayton Adams. I asked him specifically about these bills, and would like to share his response:
· Carrying of firearms by medical professionals (HB 79): This law appears to set a dangerous precedent for allowing non-law enforcement individuals to carry firearms. It does not seem appropriate to me to begin allowing non-law enforcement entities to begin carrying firearms. EMTs on SWAT should focus on saving lives and performing medical duties, not worrying about carrying around and discharging a gun. My primary career is teaching and I have heard efforts to attempt to arm teachers. I do not believe simply arming people creates safer situations or environments.
· Expanded right to concealed carry (SB 142): I would not support this legislation because it would affect officer safety. Simply telling an officer at a traffic stop you have a CCW and are carrying a firearm does not seem like much of a burden or inconvenience. This seems like an unnecessary piece of legislation.
· The DEFEND Act (HB 233): This is the scariest piece of legislation out of the three you shared with me. This legislation appears to give gun owners who enter ‘gun free’ spaces a free pass at breaking the law. This bill takes away the ‘responsibility’ expectation of gun ownership.
This is the kind of thinking and care we need when legislating something as important as firearms. His emphasis on responsible gun ownership and reasonable efforts to ensure guns don't end up in the hands of individuals who should not own them would serve his district far better than the incumbent, who not only voted for all three of these bills, but was a sponsor of HB 79. Mr. Adams would be a dramatic improvement, and provide an important voice in this debate and others.