An amazing thing happened on Ohio political Twitter this week–an Ohio State Representative engaged in a debate with his opponent that ended with his suggestion kids 18 and older should be allowed to take guns to school.
Republican State Representative, Niraj Antani, got into a Twitter debate with his Democratic challenger, Zach Dickerson, after posting an announcement of a school safety meeting in Miamisburg. On a day when thousands of Ohio students walked out of class to call attention to gun violence, Dickerson challenged Antani about his support for eliminating school safety zones.
It went haywire from there. When another user asked: “Are you advocating we arm elementary/middle/high school students?” he went actually there:
Antani later clarified that this only applied to students who were “of age” (tweet deleted). [side note: in Ohio, while you must be 21 to carry a handgun, there are no age limits for long guns] Antani’s comment suggested he thought only 18-year olds could carry guns to school. His fuzzy understanding of the law aside, he does apparently believe some limits of 2nd amendment rights are appropriate (phew!).
In the story, Antani doubled down on his assertions that because gun-free zones “don’t work,” and the constitution grants everyone the right to carry guns, he believed older students should be allowed to carry rifles to school.
Once that story went online, the internet, as you might expect, exploded:
Is there a Republican bottled water that they are all drinking that’s making them all stupid? Just trying to figure out what is going on.
— Crookita (@crookita) March 16, 2018
Even Antani’s Republican primary challenger, himself a staunch gun rights advocate, piled on:
This is a 70%+ R district. I am Niraj’s GOP primary opponent and that is the only way to oust him. I think allowing HS seniors to carry is a terrible idea. https://t.co/hkM7WAuslw
— Rechfor42 (@marcus4657) March 16, 2018
By Friday, Antani’s story had spread to other Ohio news outlets and beyond, undoubtedly resulting in a flurry of calls to his office, and, who knows, maybe to his donors and backers in the Ohio House Republican Caucus. We can only imagine what prompted it, but Antani sent out this update late in the day on Friday:
I did a poor job of communicating my position, and I apologize for that. STATEMENT: pic.twitter.com/gHNuNJvGZD
— Rep. Niraj Antani (@NirajAntani) March 16, 2018
Except that doesn’t really clarify anything. He continues to maintain that students (18 and older) should be allowed to carry their guns to school
.@NirajAntani said he “did a poor job of communicating” his position on the Second Amendment, but also said @daytondailynews accurately reported his position that students age 18-plus should be able to carry long guns within their high schools. https://t.co/PgiYilL3PT
— Will Garbe (@WGarbeWHIO) March 16, 2018
The only thing he’s backing away from is a strawman argument that he was calling for the “arming” of students. To be clear, he thinks they should arm themselves. Helpful clarification, Representative!
In a fun postscript to this unfolding drama, the school safety meeting in Miamisburg has been canceled until further notice:
UPDATE: School safety event Niraj Antani scheduled to be a part of postponed https://t.co/LO3OnWCDX6
— Sean Cudahy (@SCudahyWHIO) March 16, 2018
Someone must not want to have to defend their support for armed High Schoolers in public.
The lesson here, kids, is that sometimes it’s not always good to engage on Twitter. We all have to learn this lesson the hard way, right Niraj?
If you’d like to rid Ohio of extremists list Antani, here are two things you can do: vote Democrat for Governor, Auditor and Secretary of State so we can ungerrymander our legislative districts in 2021, and get to know Antani’s opponent, Zach Dickerson.