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The Journal Gazette

  • The glass wall outside the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs in IPFW's Walb Student Union features an issue of the week. This week's topic drew a large variety of responses.

  • Ostermeyer

  • Blumenherst

Thursday, March 01, 2018 1:00 am


'A bipartisan effort'

Local students of all stripes focus on gun safety

Classmates and parents of the murdered students at a Florida high school refused to be satisfied with the usual thoughts-and-prayers and it's-too-soons, and cried out instead for action.

Their pleas resonated here, where hundreds of people stood in a cold wind on the Allen County Courthouse lawn Sunday to affirm that the time for complacency about gun violence is over. Speakers included high school and college students, a teacher, a political candidate and City Councilman Geoff Paddock, who appeared to be the only elected official in attendance.

Each brought a different perspective to the problem. Fraser Coffeen, a middle-school administrator, said the “run if they can, to fight if they must” approach schools now teach poses a dilemma.

“Perhaps I should ask my teachers to think how they can block a door to stop an intruder with an AR assault rifle from entering? ... Ask my teachers to choose if they will throw themselves in front of a shooter to save their students' lives? ... Is that really what I'm supposed to ask my teachers to do every day?”

A local activist who lost two relatives to gun violence here offered a reminder that the problem is not limited to the mass shootings that make the national news. He also spoke for many when he said showing concern about shootings doesn't mean you're necessarily anti-gun.

“For me to stand before you and state that I'm totally against people having weapons and being able to protect their homes and families would be untrue,” said Roderick Parker. “However, ... I don't understand the need for an AR-15 or an AK-47 in the average home.”

They and others spoke with simple eloquence, and the very presence of such a large crowd on such a raw day sent an even stronger message. Organizers hope to draw even more people to a March 24 rally.

Though Brandon Blumenherst, the IPFW freshman who organized Sunday's rally, is active in local Democratic groups, he and his Students Demand Action chapter have avoided emphasizing specific solutions and are trying to keep the movement broad and inclusive.

After a meeting with Blumenherst Tuesday, Lewis Ostermeyer, an IPFW junior who is president of the College Republicans of Fort Wayne, said “there are some things we can agree on” that might help reduce risks while preserving Second Amendment rights.

Both groups may be open to such ideas as background checks on all gun purchases, requiring states to share data with national checking systems and allowing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to resume research on gun violence. Ostermeyer noted that Indiana's “red-flag” law, which allows authorities to temporarily confiscate firearms of disturbed individuals, could be a model for other states. 

Some members of the Republican group may disagree on some proposed solutions, he added.  But “like anyone else, we want to find any way we can to limit the violence,” Ostermeyer said. “I think this is very much a bipartisan effort.”

 Ostermeyer's group won't be part of the next rally but may partner with college Democrats on a future program.  “Republicans are definitely concerned about this issue, as well, and want to think of solutions to the problem,” he said.

Unlike the U.S. Congress, Democratic and Republican students here don't have to be stuck in gridlock, Ostermeyer said. “You can still have a discussion with each other of potential solutions, what the problem is, and you can move forward from there.”

Things may be different, this time.