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Gun Victim Vigils versus New Firearm Laws

July 19, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Are they too lenient, or too tough on gun owners? Opinions about Ohio's firearms laws run the gamut. But on Sunday, another prayer vigil was held in Ohio. The monthly gatherings, now held in Columbus and Toledo, honor the memories of people who die in shootings.

The Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence works with local clergy to arrange the services. Toby Hoover, who heads the organization, says shootings affect entire neighborhoods, and the vigils are a way to reach out - not only to surviving family members, but to others who need to express their feelings.

"When someone dies, for us to have a short prayer vigil, it's a bringing together of the community so that the neighbors have the opportunity to come to it. We're saying we recognize what's happening to you. We know that you want to make things better. We're all joining you in that effort."

Sunday's vigil was in memory of 19-year-old Austin Parks and 23-year-old Cameron Huddleston, both of Columbus. A 16-year-old has been accused of shooting Huddleston.

Hoover is concerned that Ohio's gun laws could expand this fall, allowing people to carry firearms into restaurants. She thinks some pro-gun advocates oversimplify the issue as "good guys versus bad guys."

"If you have a permit to carry, you're a good guy because you've gone through the training and you're law-abiding and all of this. And you won't ever do anything wrong or commit a crime with your gun - therefore, you can carry it in, because the bad guys might be in there, anyway."

According to the Ohio Attorney General's office, in the first quarter of this year more than 16,000 concealed-carry licenses were issued or renewed in the state. Less than 400 were suspended, revoked or denied.

The Ohio Senate passed the "restaurant carry" bill this spring, but the House won't take it up until the fall. Gov. Ted Strickland has said he would sign it, although the soonest he would see it is after the November election. The Buckeye Firearms Association has not been especially pleased with either party's state-level gun stance over the years, but just this month, endorsed Gov. Strickland in his reelection bid.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OH