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The Statehouse News Bureau provides educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations.

3 years after Dayton shooting, Whaley calls out DeWine for ‘cowardly inaction’ on gun violence

A memorial left on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse in August 2019 to honor the victims killed in the mass shooting in Dayton includes a sign that reads, "How Many More?" [Andy Chow / Statehouse News Bureau]
A memorial left on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse in August 2019 to honor the victims killed in the mass shooting in Dayton includes a sign that reads, "How Many More?"

Nan Whaley, Democratic candidate for Ohio governor, said there’s a clear difference between her and Republican incumbent Mike DeWine when it comes to the issue of guns: “I will fight to reduce gun violence and Mike DeWine won’t.”

Whaley has made gun regulations a priority in her campaign for Ohio governor. As the former mayor of Dayton, Whaley shared the stage with DeWine three years ago at a vigil to honor the victims who were shot during a busy evening in the city’s Oregon District.

When DeWine took the stage to speak that night, the crowd chanted “do something.” But Whaley said — three years later — DeWine has not delivered.

“You've heard about the people of Dayton demanding Mike DeWine to do something to stop gun violence and how he told me he would take action and how he gave up without a fight when the politics got too hard,” Whaley said.

DeWine defended his administration’s stance on gun violence on Wednesday by listing off different steps his office has taken to address gun-related crimes. DeWine said the state has increased funding for local law enforcement to combat violent crimes, put more money into local crime labs, and ramped up reporting into national crime databases.

“We have done a lot of different things in regard to violent crime. That does not mean we're satisfied. That does not mean that we can rest. We have to continue to focus on violent crime,” said DeWine.

A measure DeWine still supports is a bill to increase penalties for people who are known in state code as "repeat violent offenders" found in possession of a firearm.

But Whaley said DeWine is not addressing the key issue of gun violence, which she said is “common sense” gun reform.

In 2019, days after the shooting, DeWine rolled out a multi-point plan to overhaul policy on guns. That plan eventually included increasing the ability to conduct background checks on gun purchases and allowing judges to confiscate firearms from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.

However, none of those major proposals moved through the legislature. DeWine has said his approach to proposing policies that reduce gun violence is two-fold. He said the measure must be effective and must be able to gain enough support in the Republican-dominated Ohio legislature.

“Look, my job is to get as much done as I can that will actually get done. And I could, you know, get up and give speeches every day about certain things. But if there's no chance that they're going to happen, I'm wasting everybody's time and misleading people,” DeWine said in May when asked why he is no longer pursuing his previous proposals on gun reform.

Whaley said DeWine’s track record over the course of the last three year’s is proof the he will not “fight to reduce gun violence.”

Whaley said, “Because of the cowardly inaction of folks like Mike DeWine, people are scared for their safety and the safety of their kids.”

Tricia McLaughlin, spokesperson for the DeWine campaign, criticized Whaley for talking about the issue of gun violence on the anniversary of the Dayton mass shooting calling it “disturbing” and a “political stunt.”

McLaughlin said in a statement that, “The facts and data show improving and expanding warrants and protection orders into national databases is paramount in protecting the public and helping prevent these horrific crimes.”

Whaley added that, aside from inaction on policies he previously proposed, DeWine has gone in the opposite direction on public safety by signing bills to enact laws that reduce the required training for teachers to carry guns in classrooms, eliminate the requirement for training to carry a concealed weapon, and remove the duty to retreat before using lethal force with a firearm – also known as Stand Your Ground.

Whaley and DeWine will face each other in the General Election on November 8.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.