‘Everyone has it in their power to bring people together,' Dayton mayor says ahead of Trump visit

‘Everyone has it in their power to bring people together,' Dayton mayor says ahead of Trump visit
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley spoke Tuesday afternoon at the location where the mass shooting that killed nine people happened early Sunday morning.

DAYTON, Ohio (FOX19) - Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley spoke Tuesday afternoon at the location where the mass shooting that killed nine people happened early Sunday morning.

Whaley addressed reporters outside of Ned Peppers on E. 5th Street at 12:20 p.m. and didn’t hold back on her thoughts following the tragedy that struck her community.

“I’m pleased we are having a conversation around more common sense gun reform,” Whaley said hours after Gov. Mike DeWine addressed a room of reporters at the Statehouse calling for background checks and a red flag law in the wake of the Dayton mass shooting.

“I’m pleased with the steps Gov. DeWine has made this morning. I think he has listened to the people of Dayton,” Whaley said. “Are they as big as the steps I would take? Of course not, but we all walk in different strides, considering last year I was fighting state legislators on not having guns in daycare centers.”

DeWine called on state lawmakers Tuesday to pass laws requiring background checks for most gun sales and allow courts to restrict firearm access for potentially dangerous people.

His proposals come two days after a gunman with a .223-caliber rifle and high-capacity magazines killed nine people including his own sister and injured 27 others in a mass shooting in a popular nightlife district of downtown Dayton.

The shooting happened in the Oregon District on E. Fifth Street at 1 a.m.

The suspect, Connor Betts, 24, of Dayton, wearing body armor opened fire with a .223 caliber rifle, according Whaley.

Whaley says she and DeWine spoke Monday evening before he unveiled his proposal to the public.

“He said ‘I don’t know if these things would have changed Dayton,’ but I think Dayton happening has changed his movement on some of these things,” she said

She says she believes when he and other state officials visited Dayton in the wake of the shooting, the love, support, and anger they saw had an effect.

“I think the governor has been working on this for a few months, that’s what he said to me. May it sped up that process, but I think he’s been working on this for a bit,” she said.

Whaley says she believes DeWine’s plan is a step in the right direction.

“I haven’t gotten into the details yet. Certainly some of the mental health questions he’s asking — I’ve been really clear about this. I’m not Pollyanna-ish to think that we are going to find a perfect piece of legislation that’s going to solve every single gun problem down the road — but we need to start working in that direction and I think Gov. DeWine has done that,” she said.

Though Whaley said she is pleased with the governor’s actions, she made it clear she is not happy with President Donald Trump’s comments and actions following the mass shooting.

“I’m disappointed with his remarks. I think they fall really short. He mentioned gun issues one time. I think, watching the president over the last few years on the issue of guns, I don’t know if he knows what he believes, frankly,” she said.

Whaley says she believes Trump has been very unhelpful on the topic of gun reform and to the Dayton community as a whole.

She says she doesn’t know what to expect from his visit Wednesday.

“Everyone has it in their power to be a force to bring people together and everybody has it in their power to be a force to bring people apart. That’s up to the President of the United States,” she said.

“I have no sense of what’s in President Trump’s mind at all. I can only hope that as President of the Unite States he’s coming here to add value to our community and he recognizes that that’s what our community needs.”

Whaley says that she will greet Trump Wednesday and will express her views and displeasure with him personally.

The mayor also touched on Trump’s slip-up during a press conference Monday where he mistakenly expressed his sympathies for Toledo instead of Dayton.

“People from the coast never really understand Ohio and they think all Ohio cities are the same and it’s an exhausting issue that we have all the time," she said. "If we had people from power centers really invest and pay attention to our communities we’d all be better off.”

She also said she’s aware that some are planning to protest the president’s visit.

“I’m glad that they’re using their right to give a free speech comment and I know that he’s made this bed and he’s got to lie in it," she said. "His rhetoric has been painful for many in our community and I think people should stand up and say they’re not happy if they’re not happy that he’s coming.”

Whaley also made her thoughts on gun control clear and her thoughts on the shooter having access to a firearm.

“I’m in favor of a ban on assault weapons. I always have been, even before this. I think that this gun is a problematic issue — if he didn’t have a gun like that we wouldn’t see so much fast death like in the 30 seconds it took to happen. I shared that with the president when he called me Sunday evening.”

Dayton Police Chief Robert Biehl said the rifle held a 100 double-round drum magazine.

Biehl said during a press conference Monday morning the gunman potentially had a maximum of 250 rounds in his possession at the time of the shooting if all of the magazines he had on him were at full capacity.

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Betts was wearing a mask, bulletproof vest and ear protection, according to Biehl.

Biehl was also able to confirm that the shooter modified the firearm to have it function as a rifle, which he said he also found troubling.

The chief also said he can confirm at least 14 of the people injured, were injured by gunfire.

Dayton Fire Chief Jeffrey Payne said 37 total patients were treated at local hospitals. He said they suffered injuries ranging from gunshots, to injuries from being trampled, to lacerations from broken glass.

Payne says 11 victims are still hospitalized from their injuries.

Police confirm that one of the nine shooting victims was the shooter’s sister, Megan K. Betts.

Megan, who was 22, was the youngest victim; the oldest was 57.

The victims are: Lois L. Oglesby, 27, Saeed Saleh, 38, Derrick R. Fudge, 57, Logan M. Turner, 30, Nicholas P. Cumer, 25, Thomas J. McNichols, 25, Beatrice N. Warren-Curtis, 36, Monica E. Brickhouse, 39, and Megan Betts.

Whaley says the victims have advocates speaking on their behalf and have asked for privacy at this time.

She says she plans to visit with recovering victims at the hospital later Tuesday.

When asked about her thoughts on the Cincinnati-area lawmaker who blamed mass shootings on “drag queen advocates,” homosexual marriage," “the relaxing of laws against criminals (open borders),” and “snowflakes who can’t accept a duly-elected President,” Whaley said she hopes she resigns.

State Rep. Candice Keller, R- Middletown, made the comments in a Facebook post on her personal page Sunday.

“They’re really just heartbreaking. You have a woman who lives 40 minutes from here and for her to spew such hate in our community that’s about inclusivity, it’s about diversity, our community is about bringing people together and to say that on the heels of these deaths, I think she just represents what is so disgusting about American politics today and I commend the Ohio republican party for calling for her resignation,” she said.

“I hope she resigns because that kind of hate — there’s a lot of interesting stuff in the Ohio Statehouse — but definitely that doesn’t belong there.”

Whaley ended her news conference by circling back to her thoughts that there isn’t enough being done at the federal level to address gun violence.

“What do you see happening in D.C.? You see a lot of nothing happening on a lot of stuff. Common sense gun reform is definitely an area where nothing has happened,” she said.

She also expressed concern that mass shootings and gun violence are being forced into the mental health category and won’t be addressed on their own.

“I think mental health is a really big issue. I think guns is a big issue too," she said. "I want us to be careful to not just put them together as one. They’re connected, but we have a mental health issue that affects gun violence, and we do have an issue with guns.”

“Background checks are really, really important and if you just do mental health and don’t do gun work on common sense gun legislation, we won’t be successful in this fight.”

President Trump is scheduled to land around 10:30 Wednesday morning and Mayor Whaley says she plans to discuss all of these concerns with him.

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