On Saturday, more than 200 supporters from Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus gathered in front of Columbus City Hall to call for new legislation to curb the escalation of gun violence.
"Out of tragedy comes opportunity," said Ohio State Representative Tracy Maxwell Heard, recalling the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14. "This is an opportunity to wake up, to recognize, to reconsider, and to do better. When it comes to protecting our children and our community, nothing is more important."
Founder Shannon Watts described how the national organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America got started. "After the massacre in Newtown, I started a Facebook page because I had to do something. I couldn't stand by and wait for the news of one more tragedy. I'm not a politician. I'm just a mom from Indiana. I'm an accidental activist.
"We're here today, ready to take whatever action is necessary to enact the common sense gun laws that will keep our kids safe," Watts said. "We have over 80 chapters and 80,000 supporters. Together, we will be the voice of reason."
"We need to quit talking about guns and start talking about people," said Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, which sponsored the rally along with Moms Demand Action. "We have to be very, very clear that our kids come first. Our families come first. Not guns."
"Just last year we had over 120 assault weapons confiscated by our police that were used in crimes," said Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman. "An assault weapon is a weapon of war. Assault weapons should not be the hands of you, or me, or anyone else outside the police or the military."
About a dozen gun rights protesters marched along Broad Street outside the rally. "I respect everybody's right to protest," Coleman said. "But I see this guy walking around here with his flag and a gun, and I know he's probably never had a child struck down by a bullet from an assault weapon."
"Nothing makes me more anxious at work than a page from the emergency room saying that a child has been shot," Dr. Jonathan Groner, who has treated many young victims of gunshot wounds in 25 years as a pediatric trauma surgeon in central Ohio.
"One thing I've learned is that it's not exclusively a mental health issue," Dr. Groner said. "The vast majority of people with serious mental illness do not shoot people. The vast majority of firearm trauma victims are not injured by someone with mental illness. If the firearm problem is approached purely as a mental health issue, then kids will continue to die."
Firearms are not a constitutional issue, Dr. Groner said. "Constitutional rights have limits. You can't shout, 'Fire!' in a movie theater. That guy out there with the flag can't have a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. He can't have a stinger missile. He probably wants one, but he can't."