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Ohio State Sen. Peggy Lehner Weighs In On Dayton Shooting And Gun Policy


Joining us now is Ohio state Senator Peggy Lehner. She's a Republican, and her district - Ohio's 6th - neighbors Dayton.

Welcome to the program.

PEGGY LEHNER: Hello. Thanks for having me.

CORNISH: Today we heard the president give a variety of reasons and factors he thinks contributed to the violence this past weekend, including violent video games. Did you agree with anything you heard?

LEHNER: Well, I didn't have an opportunity to actually hear the president's comments. I know that everyone's scratching their heads, trying to figure out what's going on, what's causing this. And I don't think it's any one issue. It's a combination of a whole lot of things. Video games may play a small role in that, but I think it's really kind of something no one can really answer at this point.

CORNISH: I want to move on to the Ohio Senate then. Democrats have called for laws on universal background checks on gun purchases, also a red flag law to restrict firearms access for people who are perceived as a threat.

Would you support any of this legislation that is up from the minority in your state?

LEHNER: Yeah, I think it's really unfortunate that this has broken down into a partisan issue that - I'm personally embarrassed that it has been up to the Democrats alone to be calling for some of these very commonsense, simple solutions that don't do anything to violate anyone's Second Amendment rights. They just are things that potentially have the possibility of keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong person at the wrong time...

CORNISH: But can I jump in with...

LEHNER: ...And I think we should all support that.

CORNISH: You say you're personally embarrassed. You once earned the endorsement of the Buckeye Firearms Association. And currently, your state doesn't have any requirements for background checks on private sales - right? - there aren't limits on the number of firearms a person can buy at once.

LEHNER: No, there are not.

CORNISH: What is the sense about a potential political shift?

LEHNER: Well, I'm hoping that one takes place, frankly. You know, I think every time we have one of these shootings, people say maybe this is going to be the turning point. Maybe this is the time that people are going to stand up and do something about it. And, you know, a week later, it's another city, another killing - different group of kids or whoever, you know, whether - it's not just in schools anymore.

CORNISH: What do you think are some of the obstacles for your party in signing on to this kind of legislation?

LEHNER: You know, I really don't know. I think, just over the years, it sort of has built up to be if you're a Republican, you're supposed to oppose gun safety laws. And if you're a Democrat, you're supposed to support them. And that's just wrong. We're all in this together, and it's time that we started looking for solutions together. And I'm certainly standing ready to do that. I've been meeting with some of my Democratic colleagues today, talking to some of my Republican colleagues and saying, hey, you know, let's work together and come up with some legislation that's going to actually help end this.

CORNISH: What are you hearing from your Republican colleagues?

LEHNER: I'm hearing more interest, frankly, than I have in the past. No strong commitments, but we're - you know, we're 24 hours out right now, and I'm still trying to figure out exactly what legislation has a good chance of making it through the Ohio Senate. And so it's early, but I am sensing some intense interest. You know, it's always - I've noticed that it's one of those things that when the incident first happens, that everyone says, well, now is not the time to talk about it, you know? We haven't even buried these people. Let's get into the politics later. We've got to quit thinking of this as the politics of it and start thinking about what we are doing as a nation, as individual states to turn this around. And that's the conversation that I'm hoping I'm going to be having with my colleagues in the next few weeks.

CORNISH: What are you hearing from your constituents?

LEHNER: It's very mixed. You know, it seems to be falling right down usual party lines, although I do have to say I have heard from a number of Republicans - good for you. Go for it. Please; we're with you. It's about time. So I'm encouraged by that. And we'll just see what the weeks hold.

CORNISH: That was my next question - whether you're taking a political risk - I mean, going out and saying, I'm embarrassed by what my party's done on this - what that means to you.

LEHNER: Well, I don't think it's a political risk, frankly. I'm not concerned about my next election. I'm term-limited. I'm not going anywhere anyway (laughter). But, you know, it's just time for all of us to stand up. And I've got to start with myself. I can't be responsible for other people, but I'm going to stand up.

CORNISH: Ohio state Senator and Republican, Peggy Lehner.

Thank you for your time.

LEHNER: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF O LAKE'S "MORNING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.