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Op-Ed: To End Gun Violence 'We Must Put Ideology Last And Human Life First'

john cranley
John Minchillo
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley at a vigil on Fountain Square a day after the Sept. 6 shooting at the nearby Fifth Third Center.

Editor's note: As the one-year mark since the mass shooting at the Fifth Third Center on Fountain Square approached, WVXU asked Mayor John Cranley to reflect on that day and the city's days since. Here's what he wrote: 

On September 6th, at about 9:00 a.m., our worst nightmare was acted out as a madman shooter unleashed deadly gun violence on Fountain Square. Without the collective courage of firefighters, 911 operators, security guards and Officers Chilton, Etter, Kaminsky and Specialist Toyeas, this tragedy would have been much worse. Luis Calderon, Prudhui Raj Kandepi, and Richard Newcomer lost their lives and we feel those losses every day. Our city has been forever changed but we emerged more united than ever, exhibiting resiliency, hope and fellowship. We have refused to allow an attack at the epicenter of our city, an attack on Cincinnati’s most definitive symbol, to break our spirit.

I will never walk on Fountain Square and not think of that day, but I will never forget the heroism, humanity and altruism shown by Cincinnati in the face of pure evil. It is easy to get engulfed by the evil in the world, but it is important to point to the good. The good is our cops, firefighters and 911 dispatchers who saved lives that day.

I am angry and sad to share that despite our local efforts, little has changed over the last year and it took another mass shooting perpetrated against our neighbors in Dayton to prompt any action at all. In Cincinnati our efforts to keep you safe are being stymied by an extremist, high-handed state government that is taking away local control. In fact, the Ohio legislature has banned cities from enacting laws to prevent gun violence and has even threatened financial penalties. That means when Cincinnati passed a law banning bump stocks—a device that turns a rifle into a machine gun—courts ruled that we were in violation of state law. "The government closest to the people is the best government" used to be a conservative philosophy. Now, increasingly, right-wing and NRA activists are having state and federal governments take away local control and will not let democracy have a say.

We will not give up. Brian Sarver and Whitney Austin fought like hell for their lives that day on Fountain Square and now we fight alongside Whitney, her foundation and others for common sense gun laws.

Reasonable proposals include red flag laws, expanded background checks and a ban on assault weapons. Governor DeWine has proposed a statewide red flag law and expanded background checks, both an important step toward preventing people who should not have guns—like the Dayton and Fountain Square shooters—from keeping their weapons. Red flag laws allow family members and/or law enforcement to ask a judge to temporarily remove firearms from a person who is at an elevated risk of hurting themselves or others.  

We also need a nationwide ban on military style assault weapons that can kill hundreds of people in a matter of minutes. Shooters in Dayton and Cincinnati both used guns fashioned into weapons designed to quickly murder people and came equipped with hundreds of rounds of ammunition. The right to self-defense is not the right to commit mass murder. All rights have reasonable restrictions and banning assault weapons is a reasonable step to save lives. The heroics of the Dayton Police were amazing, but even getting there in 30 seconds could not stop a machine gun from shooting 36 people.

I have the honor to serve as the Chair of the Mayors and Police Chiefs Task Force of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Recently, this task force met in Toledo where we discussed ways that mayors and other government leaders can encourage responsible gun behavior. One of the ways that we have decided to achieve this is to form a Smart Gun Buying Consortium with mayors from across the country. Smart guns would only work if the owner fires them. Government buys 40% of the guns in the U.S. but has not made full use of this market leverage to push the gun industry to improve its products and practices. Big gun companies and the NRA have resisted developing smart gun technology. Our consortium will collectively purchase smart gun technology, such as gun locks that unlock with a fingerprint, and will have our police officers test these products to give the companies feedback to improve the products.

Random mass shootings are not normal and we as a country cannot allow them to be normalized. This is an American problem that we as Americans must solve by putting ideology last and human life first. We do not have freedom if we are not free from madmen unleashing deadly gun violence and terror where we learn, pray and live. Enough is enough.