The mother of a local man who died in the Colorado theater shooting said she doesn’t have the strength to be on the front lines of the gun control debate but hopes to persuade U.S. Sen. Rob Portman that high-capacity assault weapons “have no place on the streets of America.”
Jackson’s son, Matthew McQuinn, was shot nine times, including once in the neck, while shielding his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, during the shooting. Yowler, a St. Paris native, was shot in the leg but survived.
James Holmes, 25, has been charged with killing McQuinn and 11 others and faces the death penalty if convicted.
“If he did not have that high-powered magazine, he would not have been able to shoot as many people as he did as quickly as he did,” Jackson, 52, said Friday in her home.
Jackson, 52, said she was disappointed Portman was among 45 senators last month who voted to block a compromise amendment that would have expanded background checks on people trying to buy guns.
In addition, Portman opposed a new ban on the production and sale of semi-automatic assault weapons. The Senate rejected the proposed ban.
The votes were prompted by the shooting deaths of 20 elementary school children and six adult staffers last December in Newtown, Conn.
“Portman met with the Newtown families to hear their views and has heard from and spoken with well-intentioned people across Ohio who fall on both sides of this issue,’’ Caitlin Dunn, a Portman spokeswoman, said.
But Dunn said the compromise background check would not have prevented “the kind of heartbreaking loss of life’’ seen in Connecticut. Instead, Dunn said the measure would have “placed some additional restrictions on law-abiding Ohioans who deserve to have their Second Amendment rights protected.’’
Jackson said she had hoped to meet with Portman for dinner this week to tell him her story, but she was told on Wednesday their meeting would have to wait until a later date.
“I think he will meet with me,” Jackson said. “I just want to sit down with him face to face and tell him our story. And let them know how this has affected our lives, and we need to prevent this from happening to someone else.”
According to a Portman aide who spoke on condition of anonymity, Portman sent a personal note to Jackson after the votes. The same aide said that Portman would consider visiting her in the future.
Jackson’s husband, David, said the couple supports the right to bear arms but is against high-capacity magazines.
“We’re not against guns … But you’re only allowed to have three or six shots in a rifle to go hunting. You shouldn’t be allowed to have that much on the street,” David Jackson, 59, said. “Keep your gun, but have to reload once in a while.”
He doubts their story will change the minds of others.
“If all them kids up in Newtown getting killed don’t touch anybody’s heart, the people that don’t want it changed won’t care. They want their way and they don’t see anybody else’s point of view,” he said.
Jerri Jackson questioned whether those who disagree would change their views if they had a family member killed by a mass shooter.
“I hate to say it, but let one of them lose their child and let’s see how they feel,” Jerri Jackson said.
Ohioans for Concealed Carry Coordinator Phillip Mulivor and Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman Jim Irvine offered their condolences to families of those killed in gun tragedies.
But they said gun restrictions don’t save lives.
“It takes three seconds to exchange an empty magazine to a full one,” Mulivor said. “That three second exchange of a magazine is not going to make any difference. It is not going to stop a crazy lunatic, but what it will do is hurt honest, law-abiding firearm owners.”
Irvine, who has four children, said he’s saddened for the families and offered to discuss gun control with the Jacksons.
He said prevention efforts should be on mental health, establishing a list of risk factors for potential terrorists and allowing people to carry weapons in public places.
“It’s a complicated problem. Mental health is the common problem,” Irvine said.
The Jacksons, however, say high-capacity magazines are for one thing: killing people.
Jerri Jackson said
she’s met with the families of Newtown, Virgina Tech and the Colorado theater shootings for support.
Still, she said a year after her son’s death, she continues to struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
“I have to push myself. Nine months was especially hard because I carried him for nine months,” Jerri Jackson said, adding that the 20th of each month is also difficult. “I don’t know that it will ever get easier.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Washington Bureau reporter Jack Torry contributed to this story.