Sen. Rob Portman’s reelection campaign is walking on shaky ground this year as reliable polling shows him in a toss up election with his Democratic challenger, former Governor Ted Strickland.
Despite being out of office for six years, Mr. Strickland remains a potent force in Ohio politics. He could be one of the seats Democrats win to regain control of the deliberative chamber.
On a variety of issues, from Social Security to tax cuts to balanced budgets, military spending and affordable healthcare, Sen. Portman is clearly out of step with a majority of Americans who want what the first-term Republican doesn’t want to give them, a vote to push progress forward for them, their families and loved ones.
After today’s Senate vote that defeated two pieces of commonsense gun violence prevention legislation, votes in which Sen. Portman sided against the growing majority of Americans who want to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists and others who would use them to harm others. Defeating the measures was framed as Senate Republicans failing the victims of the Orlando massacre.
Three Democrats joined all but one Senate Republican in locking and loading for the National Rifle Association, maybe the nation’s most powerful lobby even though their membership is a fraction of that of the American Association of Retired People that rarely gets a fraction of what the NRA gets. Senators like Portman were labeled as “complicit in the rampant epidemic of gun violence in this country,” according to progressive voices.
Wasting no time to frame the importance of today’s vote, including Sen. Portman’s opposition to it, Ted Strickland issued this statement:
“Senator Portman’s vote against banning suspected terrorists from buying guns is another tragic example of how he is pushing the agenda of his rich and powerful friends and the Washington power brokers he serves, while Ohioans pay the price. I believe there can be no reasonable disagreement about common sense gun safety measures like banning suspected terrorists from buying weapons, but Senator Portman disagrees — and in the process Portman has shown once again how out-of-touch he has become with the people of Ohio. This wasn’t a moment for D.C. double-speak or for watered-down bills, it was a time for our leaders to stand up and do what is right — but Senator Portman has displayed an astounding lack of courage, and he has failed this test of leadership.”
Ohio’s senior senator in Washington, Sherrod Brown added his views on his colleague not helping to protect Americans from gun violence by opposing commonsense gun safety measures.
“We cannot look people in the eye and say we are doing what it takes to keep Americans safe from homegrown terror unless we are finally willing to pass commonsense laws to keep weapons of war out of the hands of terrorists and violent criminals.
“It is commonsense that if the FBI decides someone is too dangerous to get on an airplane, they are too dangerous to buy an assault rifle. And dangerous criminals shouldn’t be able to avoid background checks that could save lives simply because they buy their guns online rather than at a local gun store. It’s past time that we close these dangerous loopholes.
“It’s not only the 49 lives lost in Orlando we have to answer for – it’s the more than 1,000 Americans who have died in mass shootings since Sandy Hook – it’s the thousands and thousands of sons and daughters, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, who have been killed by guns on the streets of cities across Ohio and America. It’s past time to act.”
The Senate blocked a proposal today cosponsored by Sen. Brown that would ban individuals who represent a threat to public safety or for whom the government has a reasonable suspicion that they have been engaged in terrorist activity from buying guns, and a proposal to require every person purchasing a firearm to undergo a background check – whether the sale was made in-store, online, or at a gun show.
Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan wasn’t pleased with the vote and said so in clear language. In the midst of a global war on terror, Mr. Ryan confessed his amazement that Republican colleagues can not muster the courage needed to try to prevent the tragedy in Orlando that took 49 lives by a lone wolf gunman.
“When we have determined that certain persons are not allowed to fly on a plane because of their increased threat level, all we are saying is that they should not be allowed to buy guns, and that we can perform background check on potential terrorist to make sure they do not get guns. These are simple steps that are supported by a majority of the American people. This is why people are disgusted with the Republican leadership in Congress.”
“We can and should uphold the Second Amendment, but as our enemies are persuading their allies in America to take advantage of the loopholes in our gun laws, I see no reason why minimal changes can’t be made to how guns are sold and loopholes closed in order to reduce the chances of another attack like Orlando with too many innocent lives lost. By their actions, my Republican colleagues continue to allow suspected terrorists and criminals the ability to purchase as many guns as they want.
“This issue is opening the eyes of many Americans to the pressing issues faced by the country: our economy, wages, and college costs. Voters of both parties are realizing that the Republican leadership in Congress is deliberately standing in the way of progress in enhancing our personal and national security, as well as our economic security.”
Gabby Giffords isn’t from Ohio, but when she talks, people listen to someone who survived a gunshot to the head at a campaign event in her district back in 2010. Her fear, she said Monday, is what her constituents felt as she and others at her event in a Safeway parking lot were likewise gunned down. Giffords survived but six others, including a 9-year-old-girl, were killed that day.
“The senators who voted no will say a lot of things about the votes they cast, and perhaps they might even say they were afraid,” she said, “But make no mistake, their fear was nothing compared to what far too many victims of gun violence have faced. Theirs was a decision based on political calculations.”
“Fear is what the children at Sandy Hook Elementary felt as a gunman went shooting from room to room, killing 26 first graders and educators. Fear is what the clubgoers at Pulse nightclub in Orlando felt as a murderer committed the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, killing 49 people just last week.”
Giffords was advocating for Hillary Clinton, saying if she becomes the next president, “she will not fear the gun lobby. She will do everything in her power to make our communities safer from gun violence. No. Matter. What.”
For Sen. Portman, he’s riding a “wave of bad press” that’s focused on what some say are his hypocritical and “confusing” response regarding gun safety measures following the Orlando attack, and for his refusal to support a ban on suspected terrorists from buying guns.
Last week, Strickland released a Medium Post detailing his support for commonsense gun safety measures and stopping suspected terrorists from obtaining weapons.
A Washington Hill news group, Roll Call, reported that “high-dollar K Street donors, have ratcheted up pressure campaigns on lawmakers” like Portman to oppose the Feinstein amendment, and that the NRA has spent over half a million dollars in support of Portman’s campaign.