TALLMADGE: The gun debate at the Summit County Fairgrounds Saturday morning was noteworthy for its terse, to-the-point commentary.
“Stop selling to the criminals!” shouted a man in a black pickup truck as he passed about 25 people at a rally for greater gun control.
“Stop selling them at all!” one of the protesters responded.
The man in the truck was leaving a gun show at the fairgrounds arena that attracted hundreds of gun enthusiasts who filled the parking lot with trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles.
The protesters were from around Northeast Ohio and were organized by the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. They stayed near the state Route 91 entrance, far away from the show but in a spot all the gun enthusiasts had to pass before coming or leaving.
Bret Thompson, policy director for Progress Ohio and one of the people who set up the rally, said numbers are on his side, despite the appearances Saturday.
Hearing the shouts from the gun owners can be scary, Thompson said.
“Even though over 90 percent of Ohioans support background checks, some of that 10 percent that don’t are right here and most of them are armed and that can be intimidating,” he said. “It’s where the First Amendment meets the Second Amendment.”
A moment later, another driver leaving the gun show shouted, “You people need to go to Washington!”
Thompson agreed that contacting legislators is a good idea and repeated another claim about gun control support.
“Everything that was involved in the president’s plan polls over 50 percent,” he said, including calls for bans on assault weapons and magazines that can carry huge numbers of bullets.
He even speculated that some of those attending the show might favor increased background checks. But he doesn’t expect them to speak out in that forum.
“It takes real courage to step out of line to say that you support common-sense regulation like that because this idea of a slippery slope is planted in their heads by the NRA.”
Calls to ban assault weapons and large magazines are bogged down in Congress, so Thompson said he is emphasizing increased use of background checks.
He claimed that 96 percent of Americans oppose a policy that allows people on the terrorist watch list to pass the background checks that are required at registered gun stores, but not gun shows.
No background check
And no background check is required at the gun shows.
“Criminals know you can go here and buy a gun,” he said.
David Eggert of South Euclid was in Tallmadge with his wife, the Rev. Kristine Eggert of Disciples Christian Church of Cleveland Heights. “Our church is taking a stance against violence and we are looking for a way to get more active,” he said.
His wife said recent gun incidents have had a profound effect on her congregation.
“Children in our congregation do not believe us when we say ‘you are safe’ because they have been on [school] lockdown,” she said.
“They know there have been weapons in their school and there have been shootings in schools.”
She couldn’t say if her trip from South Euclid and the protest would change anything.
“When they see these signs and they see us peaceable, they are thinking about us,” she said. “I don’t know if we can change a mind. I pray that God’s holy spirit will work through all of us. But I think being visible and helping people to be aware; I don’t know where that will go.”
Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Scott on Twitter at Davescottofakro.