During a media briefing on Tuesday, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said that in light of the recent Smale Riverfront Park shooting and other violent incidents, the region's youth needs better "values" and "self love."
But he also emphasized that Ohio legislators who refuse to enact tougher gun laws are to blame, as well.
Cranley was visibly emotional Tuesday when addressing the latest rounds of youth violence in the Greater Cincinnati region. Calling the escalation of guns to solve teenage arguments "totally unacceptable," Cranley implored adult residents to uplift youth and reeducate them about their worth.
The July 4 shooting in Cincinnati's Smale Riverfront Park was between two young men who had issues with each other, Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said earlier this week. The shooting happened just as the park was closing for its 11 p.m. curfew and police were beginning to disperse the crowd of 400-500 people, Isaac said. The guns have not yet been recovered.
"This is fundamentally an issue of values — that even if you feel you have been disrespected, that doesn’t mean you kill someone," Cranley said. "What we ultimately need is for the community to step up, as well, and to recommit to true values of self-love and not believing that if someone calls you a name, shooting them is an appropriate response."
Cranley added that Cincinnati will collaborate with Hamilton County, acting U.S. Attorney Vipal J. Patel and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on possible actions that will be announced soon. Cranley also said that Cincinnati Police will "step up" patrols and deterrents, and the city will coordinate better cameras and lighting.
"This is an all-hands-on-deck (situation) between the city, the county, the federal government, and we will continue to do more," Cranley said. "When the U.S. Attorney brings federal charges on shooters, guns, in collaboration with the city, the county, the region... we have found that when we're able to work together... that it has a really big impact in reducing gun violence."
But Cranley also had harsh words for Ohio lawmakers who have blocked more stringent gun laws, saying he and Isaac have been calling for better laws that would prevent or reduce gun violence.
"The chief and I have advocated for red flag laws that would allow the police to go to a judge and say 'This person should not have a gun because they're a risk to themselves or to others,'" Cranley said. "Indiana — a much more conservative state than Ohio — passed it like 98-1 in their legislature. We can't even get a hearing in Columbus on red flag laws."
"Neither the governor (Mike DeWine) nor the General Assembly have been willing to take up this legislation," Cranley continued. "At the same time, we believe that background checks should be fully in place, and of course, our legislature doesn't believe in any of that."
Tuesday afternoon, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters tweeted that there will be no more plea bargains in cases with gun violence or illegal guns.
Cranley said that Cincinnati is not alone in experiencing an uptick in gun violence, especially during the pandemic. But throughout Ohio, gun sales had increased in 2020, largely as opposition to COVID-19 pandemic health regulations. And Ohio is one of the worst states in the nation for gun safety, the Giffords Law Center reported earlier this year.
"As many people have reported, shootings are up across the country. This phenomenon is not unique to Cincinnati," Cranley said. "Shootings are down this year over last year when they're up in most cities across the country. In fact, year to date, we're down 14%."
"That's cold comfort to the victims from the weekend, it's cold comfort to the victims of the last month, and shootings remain at extremely higher levels than is acceptable. We're still up significantly over where we were two years ago," Cranley continued.
Cranley said that more police officers naturally would help the situation, but the city's officer count is about 90 people short due to retirements and the coronavirus pandemic preventing a new recruit class from happening last year. In the new city budget, which took effect July 1, Cincinnati City Council has allocated more resources to both police and fire efforts.
Cincinnati has curfews in place for teenagers, requiring those 15 and under to be home by 10 p.m. and teens 16-18 to be home by midnight. Violations could mean misdemeanors for the teenagers' parents and citations for the teens themselves. The young men involved in the Smale shooting were 16 and 19 years old.
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