Last updated: July 24. 2013 2:16PM - 176 Views
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Ryan Scott Ottney

PDT Staff Writer

Portsmouth Mayor David Malone is among more than 700 United States mayors who have signed a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama asking for stricter gun control laws.

“I think gun control legislation should be there, especially against assault rifles. I do believe that every individual has a right to bear arms for self preservation and protection, but assault weapons, I think there should be a ban on that,” Malone said.

Twenty children and six adults were killed Friday, Dec. 14, when gunman Adam Lanza shot through the doors of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. with a military-style assault rifle and 30-bullet clips. Lanza also killed his mother and himself. The incident left an entire nation asking how this could have happened, and more importantly how it might have been prevented.

“I guess if there was legislation against assault weapons, I’m assuming the gentleman would not have been able to have those weapons to do what he did. Besides that, I don’t know what could have been preventive measures to keep that from happening,” Malone said.

Opponents to gun control accuse supporters of trying to take away all guns. Some even fear without guns there will be no way to prevent the government from forcing its will on the people. But supporters, like Malone, say it’s just about common sense and making sure guns don’t fall into the wrong hands.

“I don’t think that the government will totally prohibit or ban anyone from being able to protect themselves and carry arms. I think the government should have the right and the opportunity to know who possess them and the psychological position they are in for the greater good and safety of everyone. I don’t think they want to control, I just think they want to be able to address certain situations if they were to occur,” Malone said.

But some opponents still believe the answer is more guns, not fewer. One idea being discussed now is to position armed officers inside schools. Malone said he supports this plan and said Portsmouth City School has had such a program for nearly 10 years.

Portsmouth Officer Cory Sommers is the current School Resource Officer positioned at Portsmouth City Schools and he is armed at all times.

“I am a police officer, and that doesn’t stop just because I walk through the front doors (of the school),” Sommers said.

“My gun is never going to fall into the wrong hands, unless I am overwhelmed completely. That is always on my side. My hand is close by it. I don’t let people touch it or kids touch it. I understand people’s apprehension about having a firearm in the school, but we have to be realistic. Just waving a magic wand and saying all guns are going to go away isn’t going to make them go away.”

He said Portsmouth City Schools has been very proactive about student safety and is one of only two districts in Scioto County with a School Resource Officer. The other, he said, is the Scioto County Career Technical Center in Lucasville.

“The safety of the children is the utmost concern that I have. There are other jobs that I do throughout the day that I consider less important. My main focus everyday when I walk through those doors is to make sure every one of those kids is in a safe environment and able to go home at the end of the day. And that includes staff as well,” Sommers said.

He said the school was already looking at ways to augment its security programs even before the shooting in Newtown occurred, but that did force them to speed up their action.

“There’s a lot of things being discussed; a lot of ways to best implement safety in the schools, and all of them are being looked at in this point in time,” Sommers said.

Speaking in Newtown after the shootings, President Obama said this is the fourth mass shooting he has addressed during his presidency.

In addition to the Portsmouth Mayor, the letter to Obama was also signed by Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship, Piketon Mayor Billy R. Spencer, Newark (N.J) Mayor Cory Booker, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and more than 700 mayors across the United States. Malone said he signed the letter last year — before the shooting in Newtown, Conn. — during a Mayor’s conference in Baltimore. The letter was resubmitted this week with additional signatures.

The letter reportedly outlines the agenda, which includes requiring every gun buyer to pass a background check, making gun trafficking a federal crime and getting high capacity rifles and guns off of the country’s streets.

“I want to do whatever we can, as far as Mayor of the city of Portsmouth working with the police department and the sheriff’s department, to try to address the situation here in the area for the betterment of our kids,” Malone said.

The letter to Obama and a list of signatories can be read online at www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org.

Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@portsmouth-dailytimes.com.

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