Ohio’s Indian American state representative Niraj Antani wades into gun bill controversy

The Republican lawmaker says “Students deserve a chance to stand their ground and defend themselves.”

Ohio state representative Niraj Antani, a Republican, has stirred a controversy by saying that students 18 and above should be allowed to openly carry long guns to schools.

When Democratic primary candidate Zach Dickerson questioned why Antani continues to support bill that allows permit-holders to carry weapons into prohibited areas, despite recent mass shootings, the Indian American lawmaker responded on Wednesday: “Students deserve a chance to stand their ground and defend themselves…The more people who carry, the safer we will all be.”

Dickerson had cited Antani’s support for HB 233 as a reason for running against him.

The bill, known as “Decriminalization Effort for Ending Notorious Deaths” (DEFEND), would allow a concealed handgun licensee, or qualified military member to avoid charges for carrying guns to a prohibited place. It also penalizes the individual he person refuses to leave, or return with a firearm.

Samuel N. Dorf, a musician, asked Antani, “So you think it is ok for students 18+ to openly carry long guns in all schools in the Miami Valley? Why do you say that rural/suburban students use firearms more responsibly? What aspects of culture?”

To which, Antani, replied: “Yes. Because they do. And it’s unfortunately a part of culture- gang violence proliferates throughout urban areas. It’s something we need to work on, but no one wants to discuss.”

After his tweet became viral, with many criticizing him for his stand despite the recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Antani was invited for a discussion by the local Daily News.

During the discussion, the Republican lawmaker said, “The law is anybody above 21 can have a handgun and anybody above 18 can have a long gun, and so anyone who complies with the law should be able to carry and protect themselves. If you look at what happened many decades ago, people brought their firearms to school. They kept them in their cars, maybe, but there was not a problem.”

His statement came on the day tens of thousands of school students walked out of the school on the “National Walkout Day” supporting strict gun control measures.

Antani said anyone who has attained the permissible age should be allowed to carry weapons anywhere except on a private property. President Donald Trump has, in fact, proposed to put more guns in the school “to harden our schools against attack.”

During a bipartisan meeting of the Members of Congress on School and Community Safety following the Parkland shooting, which killed 17 school-children, Trump said such shootouts could have been avoided if people had carried weapons.

“Ninety-eight percent of all mass public shootings in the United States, since 1950, have taken place in gun-free zones.  It’s terrible,” Trump said. “You’ve got to have defense, too.  You can’t just be sitting ducks.  And that’s exactly what we’ve allowed people in these buildings and schools to be.”

However, citing a different set of data, The Washington Post noted, “Compared with the 10-year period before the ban, the number of gun massacres during the ban period fell by 37 percent, and the number of people dying from gun massacres fell by 43 percent. But after the ban lapsed in 2004, the numbers shot up again — an astonishing 183 percent increase in massacres and a 239 percent increase in massacre deaths.”

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