COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gun violence has been steadily increasing in the City of Cleveland for the past decade. This year is no different, according to the Cleveland Police Department.
New gun laws have supporters saying they will protect freedom, but gun control advocates say they will only make the problem worse.
The sound of gunshots is becoming more and more common in Northeast Ohio.
"Every day of the week on the news in a city like Cleveland, Ohio, there's someone who has been shot or someone who has been wounded by guns," activist Alfred Porter said. "I have a problem with the fact that 'All-Star Cities' such as this, we are affected. It's not just Cleveland, it's East Cleveland. It's Shaker, it's Warrensville — Other areas in Ohio that normally wouldn't see a problem with gun violence [like] Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus."
Porter is still dealing with the last impact that gun violence left on his community.
"I watched peers around me die," he said. "It was very traumatic and I didn't realize it."
Looking back at his childhood and young adulthood, he watched guns invade his home. He didn't understand it at the time, because he thought it "was normal and commonplace." Decades later, he is finally starting to see how damaging that was.
To help cope, he is a part of numerous advocacy groups. He is the president of Black on Black Crime Inc. and the CEO of Father's Lives Matter. He has been a leader in marches for racial justice, organizes vigils for deceased community members and tries to mentor young people to not get involved in crime.
But the Ohio Legislature is actively working against his interests.
There has been an increase in gun violence from the record-breaking year of 2020 to 2021, with trends continuing into 2022. Despite the harrowing statistics, gun laws are much more lax now than in recent years.
The Ohio Statehouse introduced or passed bills that would allow anyone 21 and older to carry without any background checks or firearm training, another that allows K-12 teachers to only need 20 hours of training to carry inside a school instead of 700 and a brand new one just introduced in mid-Feb.
"At a time where crime is escalating all over, people feel the need to protect themselves," state Senator Theresa Gavarone (R-Huron) said.
Now more than ever, people want to carry, she added. Senate Bill 293, sponsored by Gavarone and Senator Terry Johnson (R-McDermott), prohibits Ohio and cities in the state from requiring gun owners to pay a fee or get liability insurance.
"We certainly don't want to have legislation or certain organizations or anyone pushing to do anything that's going to make it harder for people to exercise those rights," she said. "There are police departments that have been defunded. There's a lack of morale. People have left the force and people feel the need to be able to protect themselves."
Not a single city in the United States has completely defunded its police force. Some cities have reduced the amount of spending their law enforcement receives, but none are abolished. Not even in Minneapolis, where the 'Defund the Police' movement began. The vast majority of major cities in the United States actually increased their police force budgets or kept them the same, a study by Bloomberg CityLab.
With Republicans ruling each government branch and being vocal supporters of firearm freedom, what was the reasoning for this legislation? Well, Democratic San Jose, Calif. passed that safety bill to reduce violence and encourage accountability for gun owners, according to ABC News.
"I'm not aware of any cities currently in Ohio pushing this legislation," Gavarone said when asked why the bill was introduced. "I have not currently heard of them pushing that legislation, but that doesn't mean that's not happening in certain cities or [with] certain legislators, I don't know."
So, the law is preemptive.
"We need to make sure that we're protecting that right [to bear arms] and certainly requiring a fee or the carrying of insurance just builds barriers and makes it harder for people to exercise that crucial right," she said.
Porter doesn't understand why the law is necessary right now, considering continually reducing gun restrictions clearly isn't making the community any safer.
"If you're not doing anything wrong, you don't mind laws," he said. "I should be held accountable for what I'm going to do with the firearm."
He is a huge supporter of the second amendment and wants everyone to use firearms responsibly, so having to pay a small fee each year to help keep people liable shouldn't be a big deal.
"I feel that anytime you can go to gun shows [and buy] an extraordinary amount of weapons, [they], a lot of times, [end] back up on our streets, harming people who shouldn't be victimized by those guns," he said. "There are obviously problems with our gun laws and I feel that the gun laws do not cover or add enough strength for that."
The bill has been referred to the Veterans and Public Safety Committee.
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