LEPD gun store

No one needs reminded that gun violence continues to inflict tragedy and spread fear throughout the community. Columbus police and City leadership believe approximately .05 percent of the population are mostly responsible, and one question no one seems able to answer is: Where and from whom is this .05 percent getting their guns?

This question has tormented every community suffering from the flood of (white man’s guns) over the previous two-decades.

Here in Columbus – on Bethel Road – is a firearms store and training center whose ownership is in love with their own celebrity. LEPD Firearms, Range and Training Center at 999 Bethel Rd. sells all things guns including mass shooter rifles. They also have a broadcast studio where the owners and their friends glorify guns and obsess over gun violence to a large audience.

LEPD is prominent on social media, but their greatest reach locally is “OnTarget,” a weekly Saturday noon AM radio show hosted from their Bethel Road store. Their AM channel is the Trump-cult 610 WTVN, which unfortunately is one of the most popular radio stations in and outside of Central Ohio.

What non-violence activists and street mediators would want to ask is, exactly how far is LEPD’s reach into the community? Their message has gotten the attention of Columbus teenagers and young adults, apparently.

No doubt, our young people’s obsession for the so-called “culture” – with all its false promises, twisted glorification, and demands for expensive things and cars – has driven some to steal cars and join drug-pushing gangs so to make easy and large money.

Now add to this mix what sure as hell seems to be an unlimited supply of guns. What you get is young people who have a hopeless outlook suddenly empowered through violence to obtain what privileged young people have.

Two weeks ago, a 19-year-old, a 20 and 23-three-year old armed with an array of guns stole a SUV Porsche from a Whitehall car lot. They traveled to Hilliard to rob a bank. A police chase ensued on 70 West and a shootout erupted with the 19-year-old ending up dead. This Porsche ride to tragedy ended up with a Columbus police officer shot and a mother now forever wondering what-in-heaven her son was getting into.

According to Channel 10 WBNS news, the three tried getting on LEPD’s firing range for target practice two-weeks prior. The Channel 10 story, however, is not entirely clear on what exactly happened that day. The story suggests they were able to get on the range, which would be illegal for the 19 and 20-year-old. But they were soon removed from LEPD for breaking protocols. Underage people still use fake IDs, but the Free Press is awaiting further explanation from LEPD.

A few days after the 70 West shootout, a well-liked corner store owner, 55-year-old Vijayakumar “VJ” Nair, was shot and killed at his Hamilton Road store during an attempted robbery (his store and memorial pictured above). A Free Press reporter was friends with Nair and isn’t surprised Nair tried to fight back with his own gun. Nair was a proud man, but many are now lamenting he would put himself in such danger. More shootings in the community followed that very day. Days later the Columbus police shot and killed another African American who allegedly had been shooting into the sky after his car had been towed.

“Quit blaming my Gun” is the mantra of those who lust over their gun collections. But we can certainly blame “straw purchases.” A straw purchase is when a buyer of a firearm is buying a gun on behalf of someone else who is ineligible to purchase a firearm for themselves, such as a 19-year-old. Or when a private citizen sells a gun to a buyer with a felony record. The ATF has said over 60 percent of guns used in a crime were originally bought by someone else (surprise, surprise).

LEPD isn’t the only firearms dealer in Columbus. Pawn shops sell guns, and don’t forget the “Gun Show” at broke-down Westland Mall, where a straw sale gone bad most likely killed a young person outside the show in 2020.

But LEPD is the gaudiest and loudest local promoter. The biggest pusha in Columbus of the “gun culture.” More guns? More problems. It is as simple as that.

LEPD and their “OnTarget” show also rip on Columbus City Council and Mayor Ginther claiming they share a big part of the blame for spiking gun violence. Yet they are doing something. Initiating anti-violence plans which have worked elsewhere, for example.

The Columbus Department of Public Safety, after some delay, started the “Columbus Violence Reduction” program earlier this month. The plan brings “together law enforcement, community members, and social service providers to engage directly with groups whose members are most likely to shoot or be shot (the .05 percent).”

Late last year the City also passed several “common sense” gun ordinances. One ordinance made straw sales a first-degree misdemeanor to those who willingly know they are selling a gun to someone who cannot legally have a gun.

Distressing is how Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost went (rural and conservative) judge shopping to stop the City from enforcing these ordinances. These judges have just a sliver of Columbus in their district. Twice Yost was denied, but then found Delaware County Judge David Gromley who ruled the City’s ordinances are unconstitutional. Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein’s office has said their legality eventually will be heard by the Ohio Supreme Court.

LEPD continuously and raucously attacks the community and its problems. The Free Press criticizes the Mayor and City Council too, but not for their commonsense life-saving policies. And with their oversized media blowhorn, LEPD promotes the sale of – you guessed it! – more guns. 

Because Ohio is a “Preemption” state (Ohio Revised Code 9.68), gun regulation is the exclusive purview of the state and cities cannot enact gun laws beyond state law. And because the Statehouse is besieged by the Ohio GOP and those who get their jollies off from shooting a .50 caliber machine gun in the woods, the City can’t force LEPD to get a clue and go back to the woods from whence they came.

It doesn’t make sense in a community wracked from the fear of a gun to have a store such as LEPD in the heart of the community.