An activist called for tighter background checks and decreased access to firearms at a forum on gun violence held last week in Delaware.
Ohio Coalition against Gun Violence Organizing Director Marian Harris made her case for stricter gun-control laws at a forum hosted March 20 by the Delaware County League of Women Voters. The forum was held at the Delaware County District Library.
"We need to strengthen the existing laws to give law enforcement the tools they need to keep guns out of the wrong hands and to ensure that firearms do not endanger public safety," Harris said.
She said gun-show sales should require background checks. She also called for a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and for more accountability for gun owners whose children are harmed after they fail to lock up their guns.
Harris spoke on a panel that also included Delaware County Sheriff Russ Martin, Delaware City School District Superintendent Paul Craft and Delaware-Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services Board Executive Director Steve Hedge.
Harris' remarks sparked outrage from some audience members, who frequently interjected to express disagreement.
Comments from Martin quieted some of those residents.
When asked if the Delaware County Sheriff's Office would enforce stricter regulations, should they be passed by the federal government, Martin said it's not the place of local law enforcement officers to disregard the law.
"I support the constitution of the United States, including the Second Amendment," he said. "But we don't write the laws. We enforce the laws."
However, he said insinuations that guns might be confiscated from local gun owners are unfounded.
"We need to be careful in regards to our rhetoric," Martin said. "They're not coming to your house to take your gun. I'm not going to allow that to happen and the federal law enforcement agencies that I work with aren't going to allow that to happen, either. I can assure you that."
Craft talked about new measures the Delaware City School District is taking to keep students safe.
He said building renovations will make schools more secure and deter intruders, if a 3.6-mill bond issue is approved by voters May 7. Several school offices currently located in the center of their buildings will be moved closer to the schools' front entrances so visitors can be monitored as they enter, he said.
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.
When asked about the possibility of arming teachers or hiring armed guards, Craft said it's a balancing act between safety and cost to taxpayers. The district already has three school resource officers who monitor buildings.
He emphasized that incidents such as the December shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., are exceedingly rare.
"Our schools still remain some of the safest places in America," he said.
Hedge said mental illness often plays a role in school shootings. He encouraged parents to limit children's exposure to violent images in movies, TV and video games.
He said parents should watch for the first signs of depression and seek help. Be open and understanding when a loved one suffers from a mental illness, which can carry a stigma, he said.
But don't think mental illness always leads to violent behavior, Hedge warned.
"People with a mental illness are no more prone to violence unless they are untreated or they're abusing drugs or alcohol," Hedge said.
"In fact, they are more often victims than perpetrators," he said.