U.S. CONGRESSMAN BILL JOHNSON Proudly Representing Eastern and Southeastern Ohio

Opinion Pieces

Let's "do something" about gun crime that works

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Washington, September 25, 2019 | comments
In the tragic wake of mass shootings like the one in Dayton, people look to elected officials to do something. A crowd that gathered near that shooting site a few weeks ago chanted those exact words: “Do something!”
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Columbus Dispatch
By Rep. Bill Johnson
Published on September 25, 2019

In the tragic wake of mass shootings like the one in Dayton, people look to elected officials to do something. A crowd that gathered near that shooting site a few weeks ago chanted those exact words: “Do something!”

They’re right. We certainly need to do something about mass shootings — something that works.

But, doing something just to make us feel better won’t save lives. Neither will doing something just to make politicians look like they care.

This week, I read with astonishment that a fellow Republican in Ohio, state Sen. Peggy Lehner, proclaimed she can “no longer be on the sidelines of gun safety.” This pronouncement was hailed by the gun-grabbing crowd.

To be blunt, I was surprised at her statement. I’ve been worried about gun crime since the day I first took office, which is why I’ve been off the sidelines, on the field, and “doing something” ever since.

That’s why I’ve co-sponsored several bills to keep families safe from mass shootings.

The first is the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act that would allow law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and others when they’re in public in any other state. Currently, a retired Navy SEAL with a concealed carry permit in Ohio can’t carry his gun when he takes his family to visit Washington, D.C. He and his family will enter one of the biggest victims-of-crime zones in the country, and if a mass shooter opens fire, that combat veteran will have little or no ability to stop it. So, let’s do something — let’s pass concealed carry reciprocity.

I’ve also co-sponsored the Lawful Purpose and Self Defense Act, which would invalidate some federal regulations that stop law-abiding Americans from obtaining a gun for self-defense. If a single mom in rural Ohio is worried about her violent ex-husband stalking her, she ought to be able to purchase a gun to protect herself and her children — without interference from a federal bureaucrat. So, let’s do something; let’s repeal regulations that limit her ability to protect her family.

But, that’s not all. I’ve fought for measures to improve the identification, diagnosis and treatment of individuals who face serious mental health challenges, because it’s already against federal law to sell a gun to someone who’s mentally ill. So, let’s do something. Let’s get the most accurate and up-to-date information into the national background check database to keep guns away from the mentally ill.

And, while we’re doing something, let’s also get our language correct. Let’s be precise. Gun grabbers often use the term “gun violence,” typically because they can include statistics about deaths from suicide and gang activity in the discussion of mass shootings. Or, like Sen. Lehner, they use the term “gun safety,” which is a warm and fuzzy front for stripping a defenseless retired man in a high-crime area from defending himself with the gun he’s owned for most of his life.

Guns are inanimate pieces of metal; they can’t do violence. A bad actor shooting a gun at an innocent person is doing violence. And, that’s a crime, a gun crime. “Gun safety” is a phrase better used in a discussion about how to responsibly store and handle a weapon, not for when we’re talking about evil people murdering others.

That’s why we should use the term “gun crime” in this policy debate. Thugs who commit gun crimes should go to prison for decades, not months. When criminals who use guns are locked up, they can’t threaten our communities. That, too, would be doing something.

As a gun owner, concealed carry permit holder and lifetime NRA member, I know our Second Amendment rights are fundamental and must be protected. Every elected official swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. And, there is no more unambiguous statement in our Constitution than the Second Amendment — ”...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It’s not optional; we must abide by that amendment with every official action we take to do something.

The answer isn’t, as little-known presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke suggested in a recent debate, to have government confiscate weapons from private citizens. Rather, the answer is insisting on stricter enforcement of current laws, giving more freedom for law-abiding people to carry their guns to protect themselves and stiffening penalties for the worst among us who commit gun crimes.

Being on the sidelines of the policy discussion about gun crimes isn’t the place to be. We need workable solutions that will keep families safe while also protecting our God-given constitutional rights.

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