The Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence (OCAGV) said that the city of Columbus had the vision and foresight to pass an assault weapons ban in 2005 despite intense pressure from the NRA. As a result of the local ordinance the gun lobby sought to punish Columbus by pulling its annual convention thereby denying revenue to the city and state. One year later, the Ohio legislature passed a state preemption law that eliminated most local gun laws such Columbus’s assault weapon ban. The Ohio Coalition says the state legislature’s decision jeopardized public safety, and put law enforcement officers and communities at greater risk.
Case in point occurred Monday, where a drunk driver, Jason Farnsworth, 37, evaded police trying to pull him over when he fired on two Columbus police officers. One officer was shot in the face with an AK 47 and the other was hospitalized after being shot in the chest from a 9mm handgun but his bullet proof vest saved the officer’s life. According to media reports Farnsworth then barricaded himself inside a building and a gunfight ensued where as many as 100 police officers responded including a SWAT unit. A police cruiser and neighborhood cars were riddled with bullets as people took cover wherever they could find a safe place. The bullet fired from the AK-47 traveled more than 150 yards (for comparison, a football field is 120 yards) and went through the police cruiser’s window before hitting the officer. The attack ended when Farnsworth took his own life.
“The Columbus city council and Mayor Michael Coleman understood the threat and availability of cop-killing assault weapons and took steps to protect our law enforcement officers and our communities. That’s what true leadership is about: assessing the risks to our public safety and working to enact measures to prevent gun violence,” said Toby Hoover, Executive Director of OCAGV. “We need the same kind of leadership and foresight in all levels of our government, especially in the legislature and governor’s office. The truth is that effective public policy is what ultimately matters.”
Tragically, Ohio law enforcement officers pay the ultimate price because of the unrestricted availability and access to powerful handguns and assault weapons. On July 13, 2008, Ashford Thompson shot a police officer four times in the head after he was pulled over for playing loud music in Cuyahoga County. On April 30, 2008, Derrick Foster was shooting dice inside a house when it was raided for drugs by a police tactical unit. Foster shot through a barricaded door, wounding two police officers as they broke through it.
Military style semi-automatic assault weapons pose a grave risk to law enforcement officers. One in every five law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty between January 1st, 1998, and December 31st, 2001, were killed with assault weapons according to a study Officer Down —Assault Weapons and the War on Law Enforcement also conducted by the Violence Policy Center. Although federal agencies have largely stopped releasing robust crime data and analysis, researchers and advocates point to anecdotal evidence of the threat of assault weapons. Four Oakland police officers were killed on Mar. 21, 2009 during a traffic stop, two of them gunned down by a man using an AK-47 assault rifle. Three Pittsburgh officers who were shot and killed by Richard Poplawski on Apr. 4, while responding to a domestic incident when he opened the opened the door and overpowered the officers in a hail of bullets.