As Grandview Heights police investigate a threat of a school shooting found at Grandview Heights High School last week, city officials are calling for the state to take action to address the issue of gun violence.
City Council members and Mayor Ray DeGraw drafted a letter March 8; council President Greta Kearns and councilwoman Emily Keeler delivered copies of the letter the next day to the mailboxes of every member of the Ohio General Assembly.
"We hear concerns from our residents about the issue of gun violence every single day," Keeler said.
"It was already of topic of conversation in our community, and since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, it's really hit a fever pitch," Kearns said. "The concern has only increased since the recent incident in our community.
"It's something that several of us on council feel very strongly about, but in local government, we have no power to address the issue ourselves," she said. "We're relying on our representatives at the state and national level to take some action."
Officers responded March 6 to the high school after students discovered a threat written on a restroom wall that specifically referenced the date of March 20, 2018, according to police.
Students had attended an assembly earlier in the day to discuss ALICE, the active-shooter response model used by the district.
ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.
The threat was discovered soon after the presentation and students brought it to the attention of school officials, who contacted police.
The Grandview Heights City School District is fully trained in the ALICE model. The training was completed with the Grandview Heights Police Department by an ALICE-trained officer.
"This training includes an online, blended learning model through the ALICE program," Superintendent Andy Culp said. "Additionally, we had a day-long, all-staff simulated training with the Grandview Heights Police Department to include varying threats and scenarios."
School staff were trained at the start of the school year and each building has facilitated multiple training sessions to include students, Culp said. The student training varies based on the grade level of the students.
Culp said the district has arranged with the police department to have an uniformed police officer on duty at each of the three school buildings March 20.
The officer at each building will be in place before, during and after the school day, Culp said.
"Student safety is priority one for our district," he said.
The March 6 incident is under investigation, Grandview police Sgt. Ryan Starns said.
"We've interviewed some students and faculty, but we have no suspects identified at this point," he said.
Whoever left the threat could be facing a charge of inducing panic, which is a felony, Starns said.
"It's a serious matter," he said. "We have to investigate and take it as a serious threat, whether it turns out to be a prank or not."
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the police department at 614-488-7901.
The letter sent by city officials urges state leaders "to take responsible and swift action to reduce gun violence in our community" and expresses appreciation for Gov. John Kasich's recent proposals as a first step toward starting a conversation on the issue.
"We are asking you, as a legislator, to follow his lead to swiftly act on meaningful legislation to address gun safety and other relevant issues that can impact gun safety such as mental health services," the letter states.
"The lives of too many children have been cut short in schools like Sandy Hook Elementary and Stoneman Douglas High School," the letter continues. "Active shooter drills have become a way of life for kids.
"Our children and our parents now live in a constant state of high alert. Gun violence has become a new epidemic in our communities."
State leaders must work together "to find a bipartisan pathway to address the gun violence epidemic and prevent further tragedies," the letter states.
"Epidemic is the right word to use," Keeler said. "When other epidemics happen in our country, the nation takes steps to address it.
"We have an opioid epidemic and action has been taken. We have an epidemic of gun violence and we need to find a solution."
Keeler said it's not an issue of left vs. right.
"We all need to work together to determine what we can do to address this epidemic," she said.
The letter does not represent a call for any specific action, Kearns said.
"I grew up in a rural community. I took hunter-safety courses and have been around gun owners and hunters in my own family," she said. "But there's a difference between responsible gun ownership and what we're seeing now. This is a public-health crisis."
City officials are adding their voice to the call for action, Kearns said.
Kearns said she believes Grandview is the first central Ohio community aside from Columbus to send a letter regarding gun violence to the general assembly.
"I plan to share our letter with colleagues in other communities," she said. "Hopefully, if more councils and members of the public speak out, it will have an impact on our state legislature."
Kasich last month proposed several gun-law reforms recommended by an advisory group he assembled.
The proposals include:
* Create a process for families and law-enforcement officers to request a judge grant a protection order for the temporary seizure of guns from people determined to be a threat to themselves or others.
* Enact an automatic ban of possession of a gun by those convicted of domestic violence or subject to a protection order.
* Amend state law to include an anticipated federal ban on bump stocks, the device that in essence converts semiautomatic rifles to fully automatic-fire weapons.
* Prohibit "straw-man" transactions in which someone buys guns for felons or others disqualified from possessing guns.
* Prohibit the sale of armor-piercing ammunition.
* Speed up delivery of court records of convictions to more quickly identify felons and others prohibited from buying guns or receiving a concealed-carry permit.