Following the recent wave of student protests for gun policy reform, one Republican congressman has a solution: allow certain students the choice to arm themselves. In an interview with the Dayton Daily News, Rep. Niraj Antani of Ohio said law-biding high school students age 18 years or older should have the opportunity to carry long guns inside public high schools. According to Antani, allowing Ohio students to bring guns to school gives them a chance to defend themselves.
Ohio law already permits 18-year-olds and older to carry long guns. A long gun has a longer barrel than a handgun and is designed to be held with both hands. A typical shotgun is an example. As Antani told the Dayton Daily News:
The law is anybody above 21 can have a handgun and anybody above 18 can have a long gun, and so anyone who complies with the law should be able to carry and protect themselves. If you look at what happened many decades ago, people brought their firearms to school. They kept them in their cars, maybe, but there was not a problem.
The argument came up in a Twitter dispute with Zach Dickerson, a Democratic primary candidate who is running for the district seat Antani currently holds. Both candidates own guns and hold concealed carry permits.
“I think he is firmly cemented in his position that any restriction or sensible gun law is a bad one,” Dickerson told Daily Dayton News.
“My view is that anyone who is of age should be able to carry a firearm wherever they want,” Antani said in the interview. “The only restriction I believe in is for private property.” He argues the main idea is about letting those who are old enough exercise their free choice, not about making students arm themselves. Although as the tweet above indicates, Antani thinks the more people carrying guns, the safer we will be.
But his opponent thinks otherwise. Dickerson said he disagrees with allowing students to bring guns on public school campus:
I think that is irresponsible, and I think a vast majority of both parents, students and school officials would agree with me. I support gun ownership, but I think there’s a balance to be struck between public safety and the Second Amendment.
Antani's comments come after Wednesday's walkout where students across the country walked out in support of improving school safety and reforming gun control legislation. The protests are a part of the youth-led "Never Again" movement started by the Parkland, Florida, shooting survivors. One month ago a gunman walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and went on a killing spree. The mass shooting left 17 people dead and dozens of others injured. Since then, there has been fiery debate on how to solve America's mass shooting problem.
Antani explained a supposed “cultural difference” between urban and rural communities is the reason for divided opinions on gun control. "You go out to Valley View, in my district, you go shooting against a rock in your backyard… it’s part of the culture there, it’s not a big deal,” Antani said during the interview. “Of course, in inner-city Dayton Public it would be a big deal, but there is a cultural difference. … In rural America, there is a culture of carrying firearms safely. In any urban area, such as Dayton Public, there is not. In Dayton, unfortunately, there is a lot of gang violence, and firearms are used improperly.”
Based on Antani's history, it is no surprise he wants to loosen gun restrictions. He co-sponsored House Bill 233, a bill that would allow a military member or anyone with a concealed carry permit to carry firearms in a gun-free zone and avoid punishment, as long as the person leaves upon request and doesn’t return with the weapon within 30 days. Gun-free zones include public schools, bars, and private property with "no guns allowed" signs.