LEBANON, Ohio — “It seemed like a catchy little phrase.”
That’s how state GOP Rep. Ron Maag defends the decision to call an upcoming campaign fundraiser a “Machine Gun Social.” The event, Oct. 25 at Hob Camp Nature Center outside Lebanon, allows gun rights supporters to fire a variety of machine guns with an instructor’s supervision.
The use of the term “social” has prompted an outcry from some Democrats, including Maag’s opponent in the November election, Charlene Schneider of Maineville. “Machine Gun Social” is an “oxymoron,” Schneider wrote this week in an Enquirer op-ed.
But the event will be safe, Maag said. The nature center won’t be set up to have a firing range; people will generally fire the guns one at a time. The machine guns will be locked downrange, without the possibility of turning them toward other targets. Children younger than teenagers won’t be firing guns, and eye and ear protection is required to participate.
Maag hosted an identically titled event two years ago, at Lake Bailee Recreational Park outside Hamilton.
“People need to understand. There’s doctors, there’s lawyers, there’s businessmen and women, there were judges, there were superintendents of schools. This is a nice event,” Maag said.
But that doesn’t justify the use of a lighthearted word like “social,” Schneider said.
“I don’t think that machine guns are playtoys, and socializing sounds like play to me,” she said.
Democrats in Ohio have often supported gun-related measures. For instance, a bill to allow silencers on hunting rifles passed the Ohio House in April with opposition from only 15 of the House’s 39 Democrats.
But Schneider, a psychologist, says she decided to run in the heavily Republican district because she supports what she calls “sensible” restrictions on the legal possession of guns. She cites mass shootings such as those at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999, and Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.
“I know that guns of all kinds do harm,” she said. “I’m not against people having guns, although I think there needs to be a huge discussion about how we interpret the Second Amendment in a day and age that our Founding Fathers had no way of comprehending. …
“I have a hard time understanding the extremism in the pro-gun movement, that there’s no room for talking about putting restrictions in place.”
Maag said he didn’t see a connection between major tragedies in the U.S. and his machine gun event.
“They’re totally legal in the United States and in Ohio and in the County of Warren,” he said of the weapons. “There are people tragically killed every day doing other pursuits.”