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A Year After Dayton’s Mass Shooting, Ohio Gun Laws Haven’t Changed

A pedestrian passes a makeshift memorial for the slain and injured victims of a mass shooting that occurred in the Oregon District in Dayton, Ohio.
John Minchillo
Associated Press
A pedestrian passes a makeshift memorial for the slain and injured victims of a mass shooting that occurred in the Oregon District in Dayton, Ohio.

In the wake of last year’s mass shooting in Dayton, many Ohioans called for gun reform. Gov. Mike DeWine and other lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, came up with multi-point plans and introduced legislation. But a year later, nothing has happened.

When DeWine tried to speak at a candlelight vigil less than 24 hours after the mass shooting in Dayton's Oregon District, he was shouted down by the crowd.

In the days that followed, stories of victims and heroes flooded the news. National media outlets set up tents on the brick streets of the Oregon District.

Nicole Duke, who was shot in the head but managed to survive, says it was all over in a matter of seconds.

"My sister heard the shots, and she yelled out, 'Run! Gun Shots!' And that’s all I remember," Duke said. "She fell to the ground with me and never left. She laid over top of me."

While she lay on the sidewalk, employees at Ned Pepper’s were hustling people into the bar away from the gunfire.

Jeremy Ganger is the bouncer who pushed people inside, then stood in the bar’s open doorway as the shooter came running toward him.

"At that point in time, what was going through my head was, 'I hope the cops get him before he gets me.' Because I wasn’t going to let him in," Ganger said. "I didn’t want him to hurt anyone else."

And he didn’t. Dayton Police on duty that night shot and killed the shooter, who stopped moving just a few feet from the bar’s open doors.

It was all over in just 32 seconds. Nine people were killed. Dozens more were injured.

And people started wondering how many would have been murdered that night if those police officers hadn’t been on the block - and if they hadn’t been specifically trained in how to stop a mass shooting in that nightclub area.

Six Dayton Police officers received the law enforcement Medal of Valor at the White House.

And all across the Miami Valley, yard signs with the slogan “Do Something” started sprouting up. DeWine unveiled a 17-point plan to stop gun violence.

At that meeting, DeWine talked about that crowd who shouted him down back in Dayton.

"Some of the crowd were angry," DeWine said. "In fact, I’m sure everybody was angry. Some chanted, 'Do Something!' and they were absolutely right. We must do something, and that is exactly what we are going to do."

But by the one-year anniversary of the shooting, nothing has been done. And DeWine isn’t the only Ohio politician who has tried and failed to pass meaningful gun reform.

After the shooting, state Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Republican state senator who represents some of Dayton’s largest suburbs, came out in favor of what she called "common sense" gun reform. Although she co-sponsored new legislation, she says the majority of her constituents are in favor of simple changes like universal background checks.

But Lehner says the gun lobby in Ohio is just too strong.

"I think it’s tragic," she says. "I feel like we’ve let the community down, because the community as a whole was very supportive of getting something done this time."

And Lehner, who has been a state senator for almost a decade, says some radical gun rights advocates tried to intimidate her during senate proceedings after she stood up for reform.

"When I sat down in one of my hearings, a couple members of Ohio Gun Owners were sitting behind me and whispering threats," she said.

Lehner says she doesn’t see any gun reform legislation passing in Ohio this year.

And in Dayton, most of the “Do Something” yard signs that sprouted up last year have been taken down.

While Lehner and some other lawmakers supported gun restrictions, many others pushed back.

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof and now-former House Speaker Larry Householder opposed many elements of DeWine’s plan, including a so-called "red flag law" and nearly universal background checks for private gun sales.

DeWine eventually dropped both of those proposals from his "STRONG Ohio" plan, but the bill has still stalled in the legislature.

Even as legislative leaders declined to support DeWine’s plan, they backed a proposal to remove the duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense.