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Many more questions

When it comes to looking for ways to prevent gun violence, state Sen. Frank Hoagland says he has a clear idea of where we should be heading.

“We need to be proactive, instead of being reactive,” Hoagland, the Mingo Junction Republican, explained Wednesday morning. “We can’t do enough to try and discuss how we can maintain and increase safety across the board.”

That’s something to think about after last weekend’s mass shootings touched us once again.

Nine died and 37 were injured last Sunday in Dayton, not too long after 22 people died in El Paso, Texas. If nothing else, the incidents served as reminders that there’s no place immune from this type of violence.

But residents of our region already learned that, on Oct. 27, when 11 people were killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. It’s a part of the city many local people are familiar with.

Last weekend’s incidents led Gov. Mike DeWine to offer a series of measures for the Legislature to consider. It’s a lengthy package, and the governor admits it will be tough to get passed, but he said the items will save lives.

Components include:

¯ A law that would allow courts to remove firearms from potentially dangerous individuals and get them the help they need;

¯ Increased access to inpatient psychiatric care;

¯ Early intervention in schools to address social and emotional challenges faced by students;

¯ Use of telehealth mental services as a way of offering access to high-quality care in all parts of the state;

¯ Risk factor and resource identification that can help parents identify when children are showing warning signs of mental illness;

¯ Background checks for all firearm sales in the state;

¯ Increased penalties for felons who illegally possess firearms and for anyone who commits a felony while in possession of a firearm; and

¯ Increased penalties for straw purchases, for illegally obtained guns and for those who improperly provide firearms to minors.

DeWine’s administration also is expanding the state’s school safety tip line and the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s ability to monitor and track possible threats on social media; providing money to help harden soft targets; and continuing to work to implement school safety and intervention programs.

The ball now has shifted to Senate President Larry Obhof of Medina County, who like Hoagland and DeWine, is a Republican.

“I appreciate the leadership of Obhof and DeWine on this critical issue as we look at a number of additional measures, many of which require legislative approval, to increase the safety of our communities,” Hoagland said in a press release issued after Tuesday’s announcement. “My colleagues and I are committed to improving our public safety with proactive legislation so that Ohioans are not subjected to this senseless violence in the future.”

As bad as the Dayton shooting was, it could have been worse had officers not responded as quickly as they did — the suspect had been shot and killed about 30 seconds after the first shot was fired — something not lost on Hoagland.

“Those law enforcement officers in Dayton really need to be recognized,” he said Wednesday.

“They responded and neutralized the threat in 30 seconds. I don’t know of anyone else who could have done a better job. That was just amazing how fast they were able to neutralize that threat.

“They did a superb job. They saved a lot of lives,” he continued, adding the response also showed the importance of officials being proactive and providing better school safety programs and better training.

“That’s needed so we can reduce the threat as fast as possible,” he said.

The sheer horror of mass shootings is impossible to understand.

And, it’s troubling even for Hoagland, who served for 30 years as a Navy SEAL.

“I’ve seen this stuff firsthand,” he said. “I know what carnage looks like. It hits home personally, and I get more frustrated than you can ever imagine when someone pulls this kind of event. You can never justify those types of actions coming from someone who has some type of issues.”

And, like all of us, Hoagland has questions about what’s next.

“You just sit and wonder, what could we have done to stop it?”

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)

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