Delaware News

Panel set for March 20 forum on gun violence

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Diverse viewpoints will be represented next week at a community forum on gun violence and gun control.

The League of Women Voters of Delaware County will host the free, open forum from 7 to 9 p.m. March 20 at the Delaware County District Library, 84 E. Winter St.

A panel of local officials and experts will weigh in on issues ranging from school safety to proposed gun-control legislation at the local and national levels.

Karen Rainey, president of the League of Women Voters of Delaware County, said the forum will give residents a chance to learn about local initiatives and weigh in on a national debate over gun safety that erupted after the December school shootings in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 20 children and six staff members.

"We want to talk about what we can do in our community and what are the safety measures we can take," Rainey said

The panel will consist of Delaware County Sheriff Russ Martin, Delaware City School District Superintendent Paul Craft, Delaware-Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services Board Executive Director Steve Hedge and Ohio Coalition against Gun Violence Organizing Director Marian Harris.

Each panelist will offer a brief presentation before taking questions from audience members. Rainey said the forum will have a casual format.

Craft will talk about new measures to keep Delaware students safe at school.

In recent weeks, he's outlined new ways the district is collaborating with Delaware police to update emergency procedures.

In January, Craft reviewed building renovations that will make schools more secure and deter intruders, to be implemented if a 3.6-mill bond issue is approved by voters May 7.

The district also is working with police to rethink safety procedures that encourage teachers to enter lockdown mode in all situations, instead of giving students and staff the option of fleeing a dangerous situation.

Hedge will talk about the ways mental illness can contribute to gun violence and will review county services to identify and treat at-risk individuals.

"The more you know about mental illness -- the signs and symptoms -- the more you can do to encourage people to get help when they need it and hopefully reduce the amount of violent incidents," he said.

He said he'll also clear up some misconceptions that sometimes lead people to think individuals with a mental illness are always dangerous.

Harris will talk about proposed legislation to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.

She said she'll focus on laws that would mandate background checks, close gun-show loopholes and limit access to assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

"These are the common-sense kinds of issues we think would improve safety without hurting the average gun owner who is able to do things right," she said.

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