The League of Women Voters of Delaware County, Licking County and Metro Columbus, along with the Franklin County Consortium for Good Government, sponsored a forum for candidates seeking the Ohio 12th Congressional District seat in the May 8 primary.
The forum, which was held at the Delaware Area Career Center North Campus, was moderated by ABC Channel 6 news anchor Bob Kendrick. The station aired the forum live on Thursday evening. The recorded version can be found on the ABC 6 web page.
Sixteen of the 18 candidates running for the office were present at the forum to answer questions posed to them by Kendrick.
The question that seemed to be the hot-button topic with the audience was, “Youth today are concerned over school safety, how would you make schools safer, and how would you fund it?” Each candidate had a minute to answer the questions.
Joe Manchik, G-Reynoldsburg: “Automatic weapons are weapons of war. We’ve got to get those things off the streets of America,” he said. “That’s how I’d like to see school safety improved.”
Doug Wilson, D-Mansfield: “Common sense gun reform is necessary. … There are many steps that can be taken to improve the safety,” he said. “I think a good place to start is by getting excess funds directed to school safety. …”
Melanie Leneghan, R-Powell: “… The issue is the culture that needs to be addressed,” she said. “The national government’s only job with school safety is to empower the local school districts and the local buildings to do what they think is best to protect their children. …”
Mick Shoemaker Jr., R-Sunbury: “The first thing we can do is to make sure the warning signs aren’t missed again,” he said. “Numerous warning signs were missed in the Parkland episode. I favor concealed weapons by trained school personnel on the grounds as a deterrent.”
Tim Kane, R-Dublin: “When I think about what can keep (our children) safe, restricting guns rights isn’t going to keep them safe,” he said. “You’ve got to get the gym teacher that has a concealed carry permit already, the science teacher that wants to protect my daughter. They need to be empowered to do that, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure they are empowered.”
Zach Scott, D-Columbus: “Unfortunately, we live in a world where we have to put measures in place that are going to keep our schools safe. There are mechanisms that you can put in place to keep the schools safe,” he said. “As far as funding, I think that there is plenty of public and private partnerships out there that we can get together.”
Jon Halverstadt, R-Worthington: “I don’t think banning a class of weapons is going to make any difference,” he said. “The hardening of schools is something I support, and I think there are ways we can find funding for those sorts of things.”
John Russell, D-Galena: “What I would fight for in Congress would be universal background checks that close the gun show loophole that 40 percent of gun sales run through without a background check,” he said. “We have to regulate assault weapons and do a ban the right way that targets firepower and not just the style of weapon.”
Lawrence Cohen, R-New Albany: “I understand the issue. I’m concerned about school safety, but I do believe the best thing that we can do is study the problem,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out what the violence problem is in our society and address it.”
John Peters, D-Newark: “Our children are being murdered in schools with weapons that are made to kill people in battle,” he said. “The only way you stop that you have to get those weapons out of the hands of people. So, you institute a buyback program.”
Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville: “It’s a local decision. We need to let these local school districts make a local decision on their school safety,” he said. “There have been plans that have been put up by the state legislature that’s available to these schools. There is funding for it. It’s the education for everyone to learn what’s available to them. This is not about banning guns.”
Jackie Patton, D-Columbus: “We need to support our schools to have support staff to respond to children in crisis,” she said. “We need to have clear pathways to understanding what we can do when that child is in front of you so it doesn’t get missed or passed on.”
Ed Albertson, D-Newark: “The semi-automatic weapon, the AR-15, let’s call it what it is, was designed to do one thing, to kill a lot of people really fast. We had a ban at one time under the Brady Bill. Under President Bush, it was allowed to lapse,” he said. “I think that the product liability that gun industry has right now should be taken away and they should be responsible for the products they produce just like people who make ladders are responsible for the products they produce.”
Danny O’Connor, D-Columbus: “We need a ban on assault weapons, and we need to have universal background checks,” he said. “I don’t want to see our teachers armed with handguns. I want to see them armed with the best tools, with books, with the equipment they need to ensure our kids have a future. It starts by having courage in Congress.”
Carol O’Brien, R-Delaware: “I will tell you as a prosecutor, the gun cases I see don’t involve AR-15s, and they rarely involve someone who is legally possessing that gun,” she said. “The fact of the matter is if we can make it safer by arming teachers because response can’t get there, let’s do that to make them safer.”
Pat Manley, R-Columbus: “My solutions are, number one is to get the proper protection into the schools right off the bat,” he said. “Paying for it is easy. We’ve looked at the budget, there is plenty of money to pay for it. There are too many large schools where children get dropped through the cracks.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.