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DeWine cites boy’s death to tout gun bill

Virus cases begin to drop

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine cited the shooting death of a 4-year-old Struthers boy when calling on lawmakers Tuesday to take up a bill that would increase penalties for gun possession.

DeWine used the first part of his coronavirus update to speak about gun violence across the state.

Rowan Sweeney was an “innocent child” with a lifetime of “infinite possibilities” before him when he was shot Monday in Struthers and died in his mother’s arms in a “horrible, horrible” shooting that injured four adults, too, DeWine said.

In the last week in Ohio, 88 people were shot, 34 of them died, DeWine said.

DeWine also spoke about the shooting death of a 23-year-old Akron woman and a 10-year-old Cleveland boy who was shot in the back in crossfire while he was taking out the trash.

“By this time next week, even more will have died,” DeWine said before asking Ohio’s General Assembly to take up gun legislation his administration backs. The legislation would increase penalties for gun possession if a person who should not have a gun (a felon, for example) is caught with one.

“We have a responsibility to take action,” DeWine said.

REFORM READY

Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, said Democrats in the state are ready to reform Ohio’s firearm laws to combat gun violence, but Republicans have “ignored” the calls for adjustments in the law.

“I’m heartbroken for the family over the loss of their child. This senseless gun violence has to stop. Another community in Ohio is mourning today, and more will mourn if we don’t do something now. Alongside my Democratic Caucus members, we’ve been calling for immediate action to combat gun violence for years,” she said.

“I call on the Republican majority caucus to start this legislative conversation because obviously we need to be more careful who we allow possessing a gun,” Lepore-Hagan said.

A message left with Ohio Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, was not immediately returned Tuesday, and neither were messages to Rep. Michael J. O’Brien, D-Warren, and Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta.

DeWine also has suggested red flag laws and more thorough background checks for gun sales in the state.

VIRUS UPDATE

Following the call for gun legislation, DeWine steered the update to coronavirus.

For the fourth day in a row, new COVID-19 cases reported Tuesday were under 1,000, with 685 new cases, DeWine said. The number of new cases had been around 1,000 per day, but it appears new cases may be trending down, DeWine said.

“I hope to see it get even lower,” DeWine said of the rate of positive cases in the state.

No new deaths or new cases were reported Tuesday in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties, according to the Ohio Department of Health’s coronavirus dashboard. Statewide, 12 new deaths were reported Tuesday, with 70 new hospitalizations and 11 intensive-care unit admissions.

DeWine said state and local officials must start thinking about how the coming winter will affect pandemic policies, as the colder weather makes it more difficult to hold outdoor gatherings in communities and schools.

Businesses, schools and other places where people gather should start looking into their indoor airflow by considering ventilation systems and filtration systems to keep air moving, DeWine said. Good ventilation systems can help reduce the spread of the airborne virus, he said.

rfox@tribtoday.com

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