SIDNEY — The mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, Texas, over the weekend has Americans calling for action to stop these incidents from happening.
“I was pleasantly surprised to hear the information the governor (Mike DeWine) put out this (Tuesday) morning,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview. “He has some decent ideas. Police officers and sheriff’s deputies know that mental illness plays a part in these shootings. Mental illness, drugs and alcohol are all red flags.”
DeWine proposed legislatures to pass laws requiring background checks for almost all gun sales and allow courts to restrict firearms access for people who are perceived as threats (see sidebar story).
“The background checks would be on sales from one person to another, except for family members,” said Lenhart. “It takes guts to do this (proposed legislation). We’ll have to wait and see what the legislators do with it.”
Lenhart said law enforcement around the nation received a bulletin from the FBI because they are worried about copycat shooters.
“They’ve asked us all to be alert,” said Lenhart. “We are also asking our residents to be alert.”
There are three things — run, hide, fight — a person should do if they are at the site of an active shooter, said Lenhart.
“When you walk into a building or an outside venue such as a sports arena, always have your escape plan in mind,” he said. “Leave your valuables behind if you have to run. Help people around you if possible. Find a safe position and call 911.”
If you hide, he said, be sure to be out of the shooter’s view. Silence your cellphone so it doesn’t alert the shooter to your location.
“Your absolute last resort is to fight,” said Lenhart. “Use anything and everything to stop the shooter. You have to be committed to stopping him or her. The bottom line — in a desperate situation — you’re buying time for others.”
Most mass shooting incidents, he said, are over in 5 minutes.
“We have tip lines that people can use to call us if they’re heard or seen a possible situation developing,” said Lenhart. “Call the police if you hear or see something.”
Lenhart said there’s a Mass Attack in Public Places which shares statistics from 2017.
• 100 percent of the shooters are male and the average age is 35.
• 54 percent of the shooters are doing illegal drugs.
“And many of them have some form of criminal charges in their past,” he said.
Seven percent of active shooters are stopped by bystanders, said Lenhart. The police stop 18 percent of them while another 25 percent of active shooters die by suicide. The remainder, he said, get away from the area after the shooting.
Of the mass killings in 2017, 82 percent were committed with a firearm and of those incidents, 43 percent involved illegal guns. Eleven percent of mass killings were done by vehicles, while 7 percent involved knives.
Fifty percent of workplace shootings, said Lenhart, are motivated by grievances against a fellow employee or company or deal with domestic violence. The other 50 percent of shootings are related to mental health issues.
“We need everyone’s help in the community so we don’t end up with a situation like there was in Dayton and El Paso,” said Lenhart. “If you hear something, report it to us. If you hear someone talking about violence, we need to know it.”
Lenhart said he has visited the Oregon district in Dayton and has many friends and relatives who visit the area.
“This is the seventh anniversary of arming teachers and and having deputies in schools in Sidney and Shelby County,” said Lenhart. “I wish we didn’t have to do that but we decided to put our shoulder to the wheel and protect our citizens. We’ll continue to do this until the state and federal government decides to do something about active shooters.”
On a different note Lenhart said during the Shelby County Fair, his deputies and reserve officers — using their own money — handed out coupons for ice cream to exhibitors in the Junior Fair.
“They handed out 600 coupons for cones,” said Lenhart. The coupons were redeemed at the Dairy Boosters ice cream stand.
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.