Officials in Columbus, Ohio, are trying to stem gun violence
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now, what can a city really do about gun violence?
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
The Supreme Court has sharply limited gun regulations. Many state legislatures have lifted regulations that they had. And so far, gun violence has killed more than 7,000 people this year. After two shootings in Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Andrew Ginther called for businesses to close early.
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ANDREW GINTHER: When 10 people are shot that we know of and 11 guns recovered that we know of in one particular incident, that requires unprecedented change. It requires some sacrifice.
INSKEEP: So how did the business closing work out? Karen Kasler with Ohio Public Radio is on the line.
KAREN KASLER, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What led the mayor to act now?
KASLER: Well, that shootout, when 10 people were hurt, on May 6 was one of two back-to-back violent incidents in two weekends in the well-known Short North area. It really got a lot of attention. It was described as chaos, bullets going through glass windows on storefronts, ricocheting around the area. Police officers fired their weapons - 11 guns recovered. The state is investigating. The following weekend, a fight ended with a 21-year-old man shot dead. Columbus had a record number of homicides in 2021. That number dropped last year, but the city recovered more guns than ever last year and is on track to surpass that number this year. And, of course, the Short North - it's an arts and entertainment district, about 300 businesses there, and it attracts millions of people to the area.
INSKEEP: And you can just kind of picture that. Many cities have that kind of trendy district, which attracts a lot of business, a lot of nightlife. So how did the mayor respond to these shootings exactly?
KASLER: Last week, Mayor Andrew Ginther announced that the city was enforcing a midnight curfew for 13- to 17-year-olds. He signed an executive order that food trucks would shut down at midnight, and he asked for bars and restaurants - about a third of the businesses in that area are bars and restaurants - to close at midnight Friday and Saturday and that parking would be restricted. Columbus police officers were stepping up patrols in the area. And anyone arrested for street racing would lose their vehicles and would not get plea bargains. The city has to do these changes because they can't enact gun regulations. Columbus and the state of Ohio are in a court battle over which one actually has the power to regulate guns.
INSKEEP: How are people responding, then, to this effort to cut down on gun violence by cutting down on business?
KASLER: It doesn't seem that there were any major problems, though the scene over the weekend looked kind of like most weekends. Food trucks did close up. There were a lot of police officers. But bars and restaurants, for the most part, did not close early. Many of them have private security, and they want the city to focus on other things. But the area still seemed to bring in visitors, some saying they actually appreciate the extra police presence.
INSKEEP: How did Ohio's Republican legislature respond to this move?
KASLER: Well, Republican lawmakers have passed laws banning Ohio cities, which are mostly run by Democrats, from enacting their own gun control legislation while they've been expanding gun rights at the statehouse, including allowing permitless concealed carry, expanding the Stand Your Ground law to any place, not just a home. On Friday, two Republican state lawmakers introduced a bill that would ban mayors from enacting curfews for people under 18 unless they said there is what they called a clear and present emergency as determined by legislators or a city.
INSKEEP: An effort to close down yet another avenue of response.
Karen, thanks so much.
KASLER: Great to talk to you. Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.