COLUMBUS, Ohio — Marking the anniversary of the deadly mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District may even tougher this year for Dion Green.
The advocate against gun violence will have to relieve some painful memories on the heels of another traumatic experience in his family – the death of his cousin, Clark County Deputy Matthew Yates.
Three years ago, Green was in the Oregon District with his father when the gunfire erupted. He survived, but his father, Derrick Fudge, did not.
On Thursday, he’ll host a remembrance event for survivors, families of the victims and the community.
“Tomorrow is just a day of reflection, to be able to lean on each other, speak about our loved ones, and just reclaim that area,” Green said. “Because it was taken that night by evil, but we reclaim it that day. Even though I don’t go down there as much, that day I reclaim that area, and that area becomes a community of love that conquers hate and evil.”
Green expressed frustration that more has not been done to tackle gun violence since his father was killed. He founded the Fudge Foundation and has become an advocate against gun violence, often traveling to offer support to other survivors and families after mass shootings across the country. He also recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to advocate for the assault weapons ban passed by the U.S. House.
He’s been disappointed in what he sees as inaction in the Ohio Statehouse. After cries of “do something” rang out in the Oregon District just hours after the shooting, Gov. Mike DeWine announced plans to push through the “Strong Ohio” bill. But that legislation quickly stalled out in the statehouse.
Since then, however, the governor has signed several bills into law that essentially loosen Ohio’s gun control laws, from the stand your ground law to constitutional carry to the newest law allowing teachers to be armed in the classroom.
“They’re playing chess while we’re losing our families, losing our loved ones, because they’re playing chess because they don’t want to make someone mad or want to do this, but at the end of the day, the ultimate judge is when you go up above and you could have saved so many lives,” Green said.
That’s just one reason why Green said he decided to go beyond pushing for legislation. Last August, he and several other survivors and families of victims joined together to file a lawsuit in Nevada against the manufacturer of the large-capacity magazine used in the mass shooting.
“Three years ago, a shooter was able to kill nine people and wound another 17 in just 30 seconds,” said attorney Ben Cooper, who is representing Green and four other families. “And he did that, he was able to do that, because he had a 100-round magazine. And so, some of the families from that tragic, horrific crime have gotten together and sued the manufacturer of that 100-round magazine.”
The lawsuit is asking for damages as well as an injunction for the defendant Kyung Chang Industry to stop selling its 100-round LCM.
Cooper says lawsuits against gun manufacturers have historically been tough to pursue because of the immunity provided by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA. But, so far, his team is making progress. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, which was rejected. That is allowing the case to move forward, although the defendant is now appealing that decision to the Nevada Supreme Court.
“We think our arguments are strong,” Cooper said. “They’re tough arguments because there’s a lot of wind at the back of these gunmakers and manufacturers, but we think we’ve found a path forward, and, so far, the trial judge has agreed with us about that.”
And Green is clear this is not about money but about change. He talks about the families using the sacrifice of their lost loved ones to push for change. As he puts it, honor with action.
“The sacrifice is definitely devastating and a blow to all of us, but if we can change and save lives, that’s what it’s about,” he said. “You know, I tell people, the work I do since I lost my father, it’s not about my father, it’s about those that are still here and trying to live later in the future, a safer tomorrow and a safer future.”