DAYTON (WCMH) — A press briefing regarding the mass shooting in Dayton turned into a bit of a political debate as some of Ohio’s representatives called for stronger gun and mental health laws.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley was joined on stage at a 3 p.m. press conference by Ohio Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, Congressman Mike Turner, and Ohio House of Representatives member Phil Plummer, all of whom took the opportunity to call for some kind of legislation to address gun violence in this country.
Whaley opened the press conference by thanking mayors from around the country for calling and offering support for the city.
“Unfortunately, because we have so many of these incidents, there is a bevy of mayors that are able to give great advice and feedback,” she said. “I think that’s, quite frankly, a little sad.”
Every one of the gathered speakers thanked the police and first responders for their actions early Sunday morning.
“They courageously stood up and did the right thing and saved potentially hundreds of lives with the ammunition this gunman had and how quickly they responded from the first shot to the last shot,” Brown said.
Portman said he would be making a donation to a fund established to support the Dayton community called the Oregon District Tragedy Fund, adding he was sure everyone on stage would be doing the same.
“We also saw this community respond as they will for the victims, for the mothers and fathers and sons and daughter who were struck down last night and those who were injured,” he said.
Turner was also grateful for the quick response of the police as he had a family member in the area of the shooting.
“My daughter and hundreds of others who were down in the Oregon District last night are alive and safe today,” he said, calling the shooting “an unbelievable amount of evil we can’t comprehend.”
Plummer, who is also a former sheriff, praised the first responders.
“I am proud of first responders,” he said. “They answered the call, they ran towards the gunfire, and when you’re up against weapons like that, it’s tough on those guys. They made the call and took care of business.”
After each speaker praised the actions of police, they used the stage as a soapbox, each arguing their political party’s talking points on how to curb violence.
Brown cited the recently-passed gun control legislation by the House of Representatives but, so far, just sitting in the Senate.
“We can pass that in one afternoon,” Brown said. “The president can sign it that day. There is no reason we should not be doing that and we pray for the victims and care about the victims, but Congress needs to do something.”
Portman cited other possible causes of violence — suicide rates, addiction rates, the opioid crisis, and mental health.
“We should also, of course, as we figure out what happened here, learn the lesson from it as we need to learn lessons from others,” he said.
Portman said there need to be more laws addressing mental illness, but added, “No law can correct some of the more fundamental cultural problems we face today as a country.”
Turner called for cooperation to address the issue.
“We need a national conversation as to how we can come together on a bipartisan basis to address this,” he said. “Legislation, culturally as a country.”
Plummer played more of a middleman.
“I’m not going to get into policy discussions, but we the people make the call,” he said. “We don’t work for special interest groups, but for the people. Let’s sit down and figure out a solution for this. It’s mental health and it’s guns. There are a lot of variables here and we have to figure this out.”
Wrapping up his portion of the news conference, Plummer called on the public to report if they see something, say something.
“We need to do what is right, you know,” he said. “Civilians walking around with body armor, we call that clues.”