After a contentious meeting and input from a plethora of residents, almost every Worthington City Council member supported a decision to move forward in sending state representatives a letter appealing for state-level gun-control measures.
City Council on May 7 faced a full house of residents and others to discuss the letter.
The letter was drafted by Councilman Scott Myers and was addressed to state Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) and state Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard). It was reviewed by City Council on April 16 but was tabled until May 7 after a resident said he was "very upset" that he had not seen the letter "far enough in advance" to read it fully.
After hours of dialogue at the May 7 meeting, Myers said, he believes his letter helped create a much-needed conversation, if nothing else.
"The single most important thing we can do is talk, and we seem to have lost that art," he said. "Maybe my letter forced us all to come here tonight, and if that's all it did, I think I've accomplished something."
The letter asks that the representatives support legislation that would ban "assault-style weapons" like AR-15 rifles, prohibit the sale of high-capacity magazines, require background checks and eliminate the so-called "gun-show loophole" – which refers to the fact that most secondhand, private sales of firearms are not subject to background checks – and establish a system allowing weapons to "be confiscated from individuals exhibiting defined warning signs."
Six of the seven council members chose to support the letter's message, with Councilwoman Rachael Dorothy voting no because, she said, she was "not sure any of the proposals in this letter will make our community safer."
At the meeting, 23 people gave their opinions on the matter, with 13 speaking in favor of sending the message and 10 speaking against it.
Attention to the hot-button issue only increased when a statewide gun-rights-advocacy organization put out a call for members to make an appearance at the meeting.
On May 2, the Buckeye Firearms Association released an "alert" with the headline, "Worthington City Council is considering a gun ban." "If Worthington moves forward with any law that violates state law on guns, Buckeye Firearms Association will file a complaint and sue the city," the statement read.
However, the council's draft of the letter specifically mentioned the city's inability to ban guns and made a plea for changes at the state level.
The Buckeye Firearms Association is an organization that represents a "family of highly effective pro-gun organizations," according to its website.
Four audience members who spoke against the letter referenced the association, and its executive director, Dean Rieck, was in attendance.
In the organization's "alert," people with questions were directed to contact Paul Dorothy – Rachael Dorothy's husband – who is listed as the president of a Facebook page called Worthington for Good Government.
Paul Dorothy also spoke in opposition to the letter at the meeting.
Those opposed to the letter cited such concerns as incorrect statistics and a lack of proof that Worthington citizens were concerned about the issue. Some called Myers a "liar" and referred to his arguments as "pie in the sky" or "emotionally based."
Of the speakers in favor of the letter, four were students who attend Worthington Schools and three were mothers wearing Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America shirts, a nationwide organization that believes, according to its website, that "common-sense solutions can help decrease the escalating epidemic of gun violence."
Those in favor of sending the letter cited the nationally coordinated school walkouts March 14, which included hundreds of students leaving their classrooms to protest gun violence. The supporters urged Myers and others to not be "intimidated" by those in opposition and said they believed most people in Worthington agreed with the letter.
The only changes made in the letter's content were to remove language that claimed the letter or the council members represented all of Worthington.
Originally, the letter was signed "on behalf the citizens of Worthington" and signed only by council President Bonnie Michael.
Amendments to the letter meant that each council member who supported it would sign individually, with Dorothy choosing not to sign.