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Chief: Law change could prevent mass shootings
NEWTOWN, Ohio (Angenette Levy) -- For two years, Newtown's police chief has been working with state legislators to make changes to Ohio's menacing law in the hope of preventing a mass shooting.
The village is typically quiet. But in 2012, Chief Tom Synan said a mass shooting could have happened at a business. A disgruntled employee threatened to shoot employees. He authored a rambling manifesto in which he detailed his plan. The employee was also seen near the business with a gun.
"We were 30 seconds away from a mass shooting so we wanted to figure out what can we do to provide people the tools to help prevent this," Chief Synan said. "When we first responded to it we knew it was a mental health issue and that's how we handled it."
The man was charged with menacing. But Chief Synan said the charge was dismissed because the threat was made to the business and not to a specific person. Under Ohio's menacing law businesses aren't considered victims. But a bill in Ohio's legislature could change that.
"So this law will allow government entities, churches, schools, businesses to file protection orders -both civil and criminal - and file criminal charges. They will now be looked at as a victim," Chief Synan said.
There have been 14 mass shootings in the United States since the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. 26 students and school employees were killed in that incident. Changing Ohio's menacing law would give police the ability to take a person's guns temporarily. The person would be required to go to court and a judge could order mental health treatment.
Meridian Bioscience in Newtown hasn't received threats. But, CEO Jack Kraeutler believes the proposed law change is logical.
"This is critically important because when an individual leaves here their anger might be targeted at an employee. But it could also be toward the business," Kraeutler said. He added, "I think it's a very positive thing and I hope we never have to use it."
Whenever a business is targeted employees and patrons could be hurt or killed. Chief Synan hopes the proposed changes pass and are signed by Gov. Kasich.
"Maybe this is one tool that allows a department, a business, a church a school a government entity to step in and stop a violent event," Synan said.
Synan worked with probate court to have the employee declared mentally ill. The ATF took his guns away from him. Synan works with the FBI to monitor the threat which is considered ongoing.
State Rep. Peter Stautberg has pushed for the bill at the Statehouse.
The Ohio House and Senate have passed versions of the bill. A Senate committee is considering changes the House approved. Chief Synan believes it will pass and be sent to Gov. Kasich's office this summer.
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