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

Dayton Strong Heart
Jason Reynolds / WYSO
In the wake of last year's mass shooting in the Oregon District, many Ohioans called for gun reform and many lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, presented plans and introduced legislation. A year later, nothing has happened.

When Ohio Governor Mike DeWine tried to speak at a candlelight vigil less than 24 hours after last year's mass shooting in Dayton, he was shouted down by a crowd chanting, "Do Something!"

Do Something.jpg
Jerry Kenney / WYSO
"Do Something!" was a popular gun reform slogan after the mass shooting in Dayton. Here, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, State Senator Peggy Lehner, and Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith speak at a press conference.

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. My sister wasn't hurt. She fell to the ground with me and never left. She laid over top of me," Duke says.

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

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. I didn’t want him to hurt anyone else," Ganger says.

Annette Gibson Strong mourns in front of the makeshift memorial that was erected in front of Ned Pepper's bar after the mass shooting in Dayton. Strong became a fixture in the Oregon District, arriving each morning to clean and arrange the memorial.
Jason Reynolds / WYSO
Annette Gibson Strong mourns in front of the makeshift memorial that was erected in front of Ned Pepper's bar after the mass shooting in Dayton. Strong became a fixture in the Oregon District, arriving each morning to clean and arrange the memorial.

And the shooter didn’t hurt anyone else. Dayton Police on duty that night shot and killed him. He 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. Governor 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. In fact, I’m sure everybody was angry," he said. "Some chanted, 'Do Something!' and they were right. We must do something, and that is exactly what we are going to do."

But, so far, one year later, nothing has been done. And DeWine isn’t the only Ohio politician who has tried and failed to pass meaningful gun reform.

Exotic Fantasies.jpg
Jason Reynolds / WYSO
Exotic Fantasies usually has risque phrases on its marquee, but they posted messages of support for months after the mass shooting on Fifth Street in the Oregon District.

Peggy Lehner is a Republican state senator who represents some of Dayton’s largest suburbs. After the shooting she came out in favor of what she called common sense gun reform, and she co-sponsored new legislation.

She says the majority of her constituents are in favor of simple changes, like universal background checks, but the gun lobby in Ohio is just too strong.

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

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 says, and she says she's never been threaten at work.

"No. It has not happen to me before, but then again, I haven’t sponsored gun legislation in the past. Maybe it’s been happening to people all along."

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.