Republican Niraj Antani: Students Over 18 Can Carry Guns in Schools

Ohio State Representative Niraji Antani (R-Miamisburg) said students over the age of 18 should be allowed to "protect themselves" with firearms inside schools.

The Ohio Republican lawmaker contended that both teachers and students had a legal right to carry guns inside high school and college classrooms. His controversial point was made on Twitter Wednesday while arguing with the Democratic opponent Zach Dickerson.

Antani said he was not proactively recommending that students arm themselves, but they are legally allowed to carry long guns under current laws. Antani blamed a "cultural difference" between urban and rural communities as the reason some Americans are vehemently opposed to guns in public while others simply consider them a part of daily life.

"You go out to Valley View, in my district, you go shooting against a rock in your backyard … it's part of the culture there, it's not a big deal," Antani explained in a Thursday interview with the Dayton Daily News. "Of course, in inner-city Dayton Public it would be a big deal, but there is a cultural difference … In rural America, there is a culture of carrying firearms safely."

Urban areas such as Dayton have "a lot of gang violence, and firearms are used improperly," he said.

"[I]t's unfortunately a part of culture- gang violence proliferates throughout urban areas. It's something we need to work on, but no one wants to discuss," Antani tweeted Thursday.

When pressed on Twitter about treating urban and rural schools with different rules, Antani pushed back.

Antani and Dickerson both said they owned guns and had concealed carry licenses, but Dickerson said Antani was pushing an "irresponsible," free-for-all firearm policy. Antani maintained that students and teachers who were over 18 and went through the proper legal requirements to purchase a firearm should have the option to carry it on high school and college campuses.

"The more people who carry, the safer we will all be," Antani tweeted Wednesday.

Antani argued that Ohioans should be allowed to carry guns in all public spaces, including schools, because "gun-free zones don't work." The only restrictions that should be enforced are on private property, he said.

Despite telling the Associated Press Thursday that he's "not introducing a bill," he is one of several co-sponsors on House Bill 233, which would allow a concealed handgun licensee or member of the military to carry a deadly weapon into public gun-free zones. The bill stipulates that an armed individual could avoid punishment as long as he or she leaves the premises upon request and doesn't return with a firearm within 30 days. Antani maintained that anyone over the age of 21 could have a handgun and anybody over 18 can have a long gun, as the law stands today.

Dickerson said Antani had taken on a "firmly cemented" laissez-faire position on firearms that left no room for any form of sensible gun control measures.

"I think that is irresponsible, and I think a vast majority of both parents, students and school officials would agree with me," Dickerson told the Dayton Daily News. "I support gun ownership, but I think there's a balance to be struck between public safety and the Second Amendment."