‘Out in Ohio’ profiles LGBTQ+ Ohioans making a difference in their community.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A Columbus man whose father was shot and killed five years ago is calling on lawmakers to reverse the tide of legislation loosening access to firearms in Ohio.
Erick Bellomy, 27, said he was inspired to get out in his community and engage in activism after the 2016 presidential election. When his father was killed in October 2017, the change Bellomy had been advocating for became a personal tragedy.
Bellomy recalled the details vividly: He received a phone call from his grandma, who told him to go to his father’s house because something terrible had happened. When he arrived with a friend, he saw the ambulances and he instantly knew — his father had been murdered.
Nearly seven hours passed before Bellomy’s family knew the details of what had occurred. Bellomy said his father’s death was the 101st homicide in Columbus that year, causing local media to swarm the property.
“I was getting more information from the news than I was getting from the police at the scene,” he said. “My family just couldn’t believe what, you know, we had witnessed.”
In the following months, Bellomy said he found himself in shock and struggled with navigating life without his dad. However, on Feb. 14, 2018, tragedy struck again. A 19-year-old opened fire at a high school in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people — a sign that Bellomy knew he needed to act.
“All these families had felt the same pain that I had to go through when I lost my dad, and it energized me,” he said.
Bellomy used his grassroots organizing skills to lead a March for Our Lives in Columbus, drawing thousands to West Bank Park to advocate for gun violence prevention. The rally was an epiphany for Bellomy, who found a new purpose in organizing community coalitions and working with legislators to enact policy.
“The March for Our Lives is what made me realize what we are doing now and what we have done in the past isn’t really doing anything, and we really need policy change,” he said.
Bellomy said he founded the Gun Violence Survivor Network, a nonprofit that provides resources and support to families affected by gun violence. Over the years, the organization has spurred several initiatives, including a free gun lock program and a billboard campaign raising awareness.
In 2020, Bellomy was approached by the campaign of future President Joe Biden to join the Brady campaign, a national organization advocating for gun control. Brady advocates for gun violence prevention through The Brady Plan, offering solutions like extreme risk laws, outlawing ghost guns, and funding CDC research, according to its website.
In 2021, Bellomy became the lead of Brady’s Ohio chapter. His work has led him to testify at the Ohio Statehouse against permitless carry laws and for expanding background checks.
Bellomy’s work culminated in a seismic moment when he was invited to visit the White House in July for the signing of the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, considered to be the most significant gun violence legislation passed in 30 years.
“[The White House] wanted to bring survivors together who have been doing great things in their community, creating change in their community, from all over the county to celebrate,” Bellomy said.
Now, Bellomy said he works full-time at Ohio State University. Still, his advocacy work is far from finished, especially after recent legislation loosening Ohio’s gun laws.
In September, a bill allowing teachers to carry guns in classrooms went into effect. In June, Ohio’s permitless carry, or “constitutional carry,” law, Senate Bill 215, began allowing gun owners to carry a firearm without obtaining a concealed carry permit.
Bellomy said he will be advocating for a bill repealing SB 215 and a bill with sweeping gun control legislation aimed at restricting who can get a gun in Ohio, the Defend Our Children Act.
At least 86% of the domestic violence fatalities in Ohio from July 2020 to June 2021 involved a firearm, according to the Ohio Domestic Violence Network. From those incidents, 121 people were killed or injured by a gun, including 15 children.
As an out gay man, Bellomy noted members of the LGBTQ+ community disproportionately are victims of gun violence.
LGBTQ+ people are more than twice as likely to be a victim of gun violence and nearly 20% of all hate crimes are motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity bias, according to the Sandy Hook Promise. In addition, nearly eight in 10 homicides of Black trans women are carried out via a gun.
Bellomy said the policies he is championing are “common sense,” including raising the minimum age of purchasing firearms to 21, red flag laws, and background checks.
“The policies we are advocating for don’t infringe on your right, it makes the community safer,” Bellomy said. “What we’re trying to do is make it safer for everybody to live a life without a fear of having their lives taken from gun violence.”