Ohio Mayor’s Stance on Gun Control, Students’ Protests, and the NRA

This week tens of thousands of students nationwide walked out of their classrooms. Some walked out in protest of lackadaisical gun laws, and others walked out in memorial of the 17 lives lost in the Parkland, Florida shooting last month. In the last month we have seen and heard a lot of the same political conversation that seems to happen after events like these. We have also seen the typical political tapering off of the gun violence conversation that also seems to happen after these events.

Our president, for instance, went from taking a firm stance on the age of purchase and ownership of AR-15s and other military-style assault weapons in the immediate follow-up to completely falling back in line with the NRA lobby.

The gun lobby’s belief is that more guns are the answer, and it’s no surprise. NRA TV, for instance, is sponsored and funded by some of the largest weapons manufacturers in the country. The NRA TV website (www.nratv.com) boasts “brand partners” such as Ruger, Kimber, Sig Sauer, Smith and Wesson, and Mossberg (a quick check to the websites of these companies shows that several have an expansive assortment of military-style weaponry). And that lobby is driven by the sale of these weapons, in return using those dollars to manipulate our political system to do its bidding.

February 21, 2018: Hundreds of D.C. area high school students are storming the U.S. Capitol to protest the NRA and encourage gun control legislation. [Credit: Facebook/Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA)]
This time, however, something is different. We have teenagers speaking out about how adults have failed them. We have them leaving their classrooms to speak out and hitting the streets in protest. Young men and women across the country are begging for their safety, and our answer is to arm teachers. These are the same teachers who can’t even be armed with the proper supplies and materials to perform their educational duties, paying out of pocket for classroom materials. Schools continue to be poorly supported by mental health professionals and funding for security measures, yet these are the answers our elected officials are giving us (my own school district, for instance, has two nurses and one social worker for approximately 1,500 students).

If it wasn’t bad enough that our teenagers are literally left to fight for their own safety, we now have people lambasting them for it. These kids are genuinely tired of seeing their peers massacred, and our policy- and decision-makers are sitting on their hands, afraid to lose their comfortable elected positions. Yet there are numerous examples across the internet of grown men and women attacking them.

The most ridiculous argument has to be adults telling students to walk out on their own time or asking if they would still participate if it were a Saturday. Would Rosa Parks have received the same response if no one was sitting on the bus that day? Would Westboro Baptist Church, as terrible as it is, receive any attention if they protested military funerals at a park? What about if Planned Parenthood protesters assembled at a local library instead of the sidewalk out front?

Military veteran and Oak Manor, Ohio Mayor Joe Helle. (Credit: Facebook/Joe Helle for State Representative)

And that’s the point. We have all been put on notice. It’s impossible to ignore tens of thousands of students walking out of a school building during the day, as it’s impossible to see the “God Hates Fags” signs carried by the Westboro Baptist Church. Public protests are about creating inconvenience so that others have to pay attention to the issue at hand. I attended two walkouts—one in my hometown where I am the mayor, and another in a neighboring community. At both events I was the only adult present who isn’t a school staff member. That’s shameful, and I believe that we need to stand behind our students. Fortunately, just about every news outlet has printed or produced a report, as well as the conversations on social media, preventing it from being ignored.

It’s time that we stand behind our youth, as they are the future. As a leader and a father, I want to see a world where my daughters don’t have to fight and claw to succeed, or in these instances, survive.


The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Joe Helle

Joe Helle is the mayor of Oak Harbor, Ohio and an Army Infantry Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom '06-'07 and Operation Enduring Freedom '09. He is also a candidate for 89th House District State Representative.

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