On Monday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine made the issue of gun violence central to his campaign for re-election.
It may not have been his intention to call a press conference to talk about the signing of a bill allowing teachers to be armed in Ohio schools, the same day the wearing of Concealed firearms without a license went into effect. But that’s what happened.
For better or worse, Mike DeWine will face questions about his gun record in the next five months leading up to the November election.
It’s a record that will satisfy his conservative Republican base, but will likely enrage Democratic voters in urban areas of the state and rouse them from their slumber long enough to ensure they vote this fall.
The subject of gun violence and what to do about it is probably the best issue Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley has going for her.
This is a question that fascinates the former mayor of Dayton. So would you if you were to do what Whaley did to bring his town together in mourning following an August 2019 mass shooting in Oregon’s entertainment district. A gunman killed nine people and injured 26 others in just 32 seconds before Dayton police officers shot him dead.
You remember something like the vigil the people of Dayton held the next day near the Oregon district, where Whaley was joined by DeWine; and you saw the governor’s remarks being drowned out by people in the crowd chanting, Do something! Do something!
Whaley saw DeWine return to Dayton a few weeks later to unveil a package of gun reforms – a package he quickly abandoned once there was opposition from the Republican majority in the Assembly General of Ohio and the gun lobby, which wields enormous power in Ohio. State house.
There is no doubt that Whaley is a decided underdog in this race. The only public poll, a Columbus Dispatch/Suffolk University poll conducted May 22-24, showed DeWine with a 15 percentage point lead. Not surprising, given that DeWine has run for office or another in Ohio 15 times since 1976 — which happens to be the year Whaley was born.
So far, DeWine has signed a number of bills that have infuriated those who believe strongly in gun control, including the Stand Your Ground legislation, which eliminates the requirement to retreat in the face of a violent threat. And, of course, the Concealed Carry Without a Permit Act, which went into effect Monday and was opposed by Ohio’s FOP, which feared that people who concealed weapons during traffic stops were not to tell the police unless they are asked.
So if you’re Whaley you’re holding a Zoom press conference hours after DeWine’s event about signing the bill to warm up for teachers and surrounding yourself with people as outraged as you are by the record of DeWine on guns.
Whaley’s group included former Cincinnati Deputy Chief of Police Richard Biehl, who retired last year after 13 years as Dayton’s police chief; Hamilton County Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey; and Dion Green, a survivor of the Oregon District massacre whose father was one of the nine people killed.
For his announcement and press conference, DeWine was joined by his lieutenant governor, Jon Husted; and the two state lawmakers primarily responsible for the bill authorizing the arming of teachers — State Representative Thomas Hall of Madison Township in Butler County; and State Senator Frank Hoagland of Mingo Junction in eastern Ohio.
Time and again, DeWine has emphasized the voluntary nature of teacher arming, saying it’s up to each Ohio school system whether or not to choose that option.
“This is a local choice, not mandated by the legislature or the government,” DeWine said. “Each school board will determine what is best for its students, staff and community.
The previous law on arming teachers required 700 hours of training; and an Ohio Supreme Court decision last year upheld it. It was totally unnecessary – no one could do 700 hours of training – and the bill signed into law on Monday requires 24 hours of training, with eight-hour refresher courses every year.
Given some of the answers DeWine gave at his Monday press conference, it was not at all clear that the governor had thought through all the possible consequences of turning teachers into some sort of gun-wielding militia. fire.
Asked about the possibility of a teacher accidentally shooting an innocent student, DeWine had a rather stilted response.
“In life we make choices and we don’t always know what the outcome will be,” DeWine said. “What this legislature has done, and I have done by signing, is give schools an option based on their particular situation with the best decision they can make with the best information they have.”
Speaking of choice, it will no doubt be the choice of the overwhelming majority of Ohio teachers that they don’t want to be turned into armed guards responsible for making life or death decisions in their own classrooms.
The two major unions representing teachers in Ohio — the Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers — have opposed this legislation since its introduction. It has only intensified now that it has passed the Republican-dominated Legislature and been signed into law by DeWine.
“Our students and educators need to be in safe environments where they can focus on teaching and learning, not the threat of having unprepared and woefully undertrained people – no matter how well they intend – making split-second decisions about whether to pull the trigger in a chaotic classroom full of innocent bystanders,” OAS President Scott DiMauro said in a written statement after DeWine signed the bill.
DeWine’s signature ink was barely dry on the bill to potentially arm teachers when the Cincinnati and Columbus school boards decided they would not allow their teachers to be armed. You can expect other major Ohio city school districts to follow their lead.
In fact, the only local school boards likely to adopt this option are rural districts where guns are plentiful and law enforcement is not necessarily near schools.
In other words, the governor is playing at his base.
During his press conference, Whaley spoke about DeWine, saying that since abandoning his post-Oregon District plan, the governor has only made the problem worse.
“Politics got tough and Mike DeWine folded,” Whaley said. “For him, nine lives were not worth the political risk.”
Ohio public school teachers, Whaley said, must complete 180 hours of training to renew their teaching license, but only 24 hours to pack a gun at school.
DeWine, Whaley said, “doesn’t really care if you or your family are safe or not.”
“He turns into a pretzel because he knows what he did is wrong and makes our communities less safe,” Whaley said.
It’s the kind of incandescent rhetoric that would inspire many voters who are fed up with gun violence — including plenty of independents and Republicans — to cast their ballots, even for an outsider candidate they know little about.
We are about to find out how mad people are about gun violence in schools.