The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 22, 2013

Elected officials get earful about gun control

Star Beacon

— Ashtabula County residents haven’t been shy about sharing their opinions of gun control and gun violence with their elected representatives.

Depending on the official, the topic has generated lots of calls or emails or falls below other topics in the legislative pecking order. A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. David Joyce, who this month took his oath of office, said constituents have been in contact on the gun violence issue.

State Rep. John Patterson, too, has received his fair share of remarks, along with State Sen. Capri Cafaro, even though Ohio is not yet considering any special gun-related legislation.

President Obama recently proposed some federal-level controls in the wake of December’s shootings at a Connecticut elementary school. Many of his proposals would require action by Congress, which in turn has prompted contacts from constituents, a spokeswoman said recently.

In a statement, Joyce, a long-time Geauga County prosecutor, said the nation needs to view the problem “as both a public safety and mental health issue.”

“As the father of three, I believe it’s time we have a national conversation on public safety focused on the question of how we best protect our children,” Joyce said in the statement. “During my time as Geauga County prosecutor, I saw first-hand the tragic effects of when certain individuals slip through our mental health system and therefore believe it’s crucial we address this as both a public safety and mental health issue.

“That said, we cannot let recent tragedies be an excuse for groups to either sell more guns or infringe on Second Amendment rights,” he said in the statement. “We must address this important issue logically and find common sense solutions to ensuring the safety of our nation’s children.”

Patterson, another new office-holder, said he has heard from residents across the 99th Ohio House district.

“I have also been proactive by reaching out to concerned groups and constituents personally, to discuss their views in greater detail,” he said in a statement. “Comments have spanned all sides of the gun control argument.”

An aide for Cafaro said her office has likewise received calls on guns and gun violence.

Patterson, in his statement, said he is unsure if Ohio lawmakers would be interested in following New York’s lead and enact its own gun-related legislation.

“It may be a bit too early to tell what Ohio will do in response to the recent public discussion about gun laws in our country,” Patterson said. “I do know that if a bill comes before the legislature, there will need to be a serious, deliberative approach to ensuring Second Amendment rights are protected and public safety for Ohioans is considered. Everyone will need to be at the table for that process, and it’s not something that should be rushed or hastily crafted.”