Cleveland – There was a discussion of guns, mass shootings and Ohio law at a church in Shaker Heights on Sunday. The grassroots organization, Ohioans for Gun Safety, is holding meetings around the state in an effort to get an initiative expanding background checks for gun buyers on the ballot in 2019.
“Our politicians are not listening and this kind of effort gives people an opportunity to get their voices heard,” said Susan Reis with Ohioans for Gun Safety.
The group says a majority of law-abiding gun owners in Ohio buy at federally licensed stored where background checks are required.
“But people who cannot pass a background check can easily get a gun by going to a gun show, or buying guns online or just neighbor to neighbor,” explained Reis.
Washington and Nevada have passed laws closing some of these loopholes with similar ballot initiatives.
Ohioans for Gun Safety say they understand that increased background checks won’t stop every shooting, but they believe it’s a start toward making Ohio safer and getting guns away from people who are dangerous.
“I think it’s doable I think it’s a small piece of a very big puzzle,” said Roxanne Javer of Shaker Heights.
Some people at the forum said that puzzle of gun violence includes all of Cleveland, where shootings and gun deaths are frequent. Just over a 48-hour period five people in the city were shot and two of them were killed. One man was shot outside his business on Saint Clair Avenue.
Another man, who police identified as 32-year-old Sharda Elmore was shot and killed on Lamontier Avenue. Police caught the suspect in Elmore’s death, 35-year-old Charles Franklin, a short time later in Shaker Heights.
“In the black community there’s not really an outrage or anything like this or you don’t see people come to events like this where we can come together to change this type of thing,” said Eric Moorer, a student at Notre Dame College.
Moorer says he supports expanded background checks for all gun sales and believes the state should go further and ban assault weapons.
“Unfortunately it takes it seems in this country a mass shooting of a predominantly white school to raise awareness it’s terrible,” said Javer, who says she lost a friend to gun violence as a child.
City Councilman Mike Polensek says he is worried the violence will only get worse and says people in his ward feel unsafe. Two me were shot in the ward this weekend.
“Citizens in the city are being put in a very, very difficult situation and there is no substitute for police officers working your street, men and women in blue,” Polensek said.
Moorer says he hopes Ohioans will come together on the potential ballot initiative and to help others in their community.
“We need these same people who are in this room in other rooms to help out the black community,” he said.