Op-Ed: Taft's Last Chance to Help the Party He's Hurting

By Gerard Valentino

(This commentary has also been published at CNSNews.com)

The Ohio Republican Party still is reeling from several high profile scandals, including a misdemeanor ethics conviction against current Governor Bob Taft.

Taft, with his dismal 14% approval rating, has emerged as the greatest threat to the Republican Party retaining control of Ohio's executive and legislative branch.

Adding to the lack of GOP support for Taft is his selfish decision to once again block viable concealed carry reform in Ohio. That decision may finally turn Ohio's strong pro-gun voting block against the Ohio GOP's party hierarchy.

Click on 'Read More' for the entire op-ed.

Political pundits realize that the "gun vote" may be the most important demographic in the gubernatorial race between pro-gun Republican nominee Ken Blackwell, and pro-gun Democrat nominee Ted Strickland.

Now that Ohio's large number of union members, many of whom are sportsmen, have a professed Second Amendment supporter running as a Democrat, it could easily shift the balance of power.

If Governor Taft wants to further the Ohio GOP's pro-gun reputation he has no option but to drop his opposition to HB347, which fixes many of the onerous provisions of Ohio's concealed carry law.

To do otherwise will punish longtime pro-gun candidate Ken Blackwell for the sins of his predecessor. The Republican Senate's reluctance to override Taft's promised veto also tilts the balance of power in several key Ohio Senate races.

True to form, Taft already has put his own misguided belief ahead of the needs of his party -- and Ohio residents -- by vowing to veto any law that would let law-abiding citizens carry concealed guns in vehicles.

His position ignores the logical premise that someone intent on doing harm to a law enforcement officer during a traffic stop will conceal the gun regardless of the law. Yet a law-abiding citizen is not a threat to law enforcement under any circumstance.

Although every major law enforcement agency but one is either neutral or supports changes in the law, Taft continues to threaten a veto because the Ohio State Highway Patrol, an organization he controls, has refused to endorse the proposed changes.

Ohio's Republican gubernatorial primary showed just how poorly Taft and his ideas are accepted statewide. Neither Jim Petro, nor eventual winner Ken Blackwell, chose to compare their platform to Taft's failed policies. Both candidates also spoke out against Taft's decision to creata a difficult and often arbitrary concealed carry application process.

Even Ohio State Senator Joy Padgett's crusade to change a sexist provision in the law that forces women to lock their gun away while in a car has failed to dissuade Taft. Most politicians, seeing that women's fashion often does not require a belt and therefore leaves women without a way to holster a gun "in plain sight," would work to remedy the situation.

Instead, Taft stands by his original ill-conceived decision which forces women to lock their gun away and leaves them without a means self-defense while in a vehicle.

That stance perpetuates the belief among gun owners that the GOP leadership, led by the Taft administration, are insensitive to women's issues, and take gun owners for granted.

Senator Joy Padgett's crusade, and the longtime work of State Reps. Jim Aslinades, Tim Schaffer and Dan Bubp and a host of other Republican elected officials, if successful, will go a long way toward changing the perception of gun owners who feel ignored by the GOP leadership in the Senate and in the governor's mansion.

An outpouring of support for HB347 by Governor Taft and the Republican leadership would also, finally, show gun owners that they are a valued special interest group.

If Taft continues to personally block concealed carry reform, and the Ohio GOP leadership once again gives in, it will not only further damage Taft's low approval rating, but severely damage the Republican's chances of staying in power.

His past actions suggest that Taft will, once again, put himself first. He did so when he fired members of his administration for violating ethics laws, and then refused to resign for his own illegal actions.

He is doing so now by again putting his own misguided belief on guns above reforming a law that punishes women, makes law-abiding citizens into felons, and treats everyday citizens like sex-offenders by allowing the media to broadcast their names.

Putting his support behind Ohio HB347, as passed by the Ohio House, is Taft's last chance to show he is a leader willing to make the right choice, at the right time.

Now is the time because the pro-gun base needs to energize behind Ken Blackwell and the rest of Ohio's Republican candidates.

Taft failed to act logically with his tax on corporate revenue that will drive even more investment out of Ohio. The Ohio GOP probably is holding its collective breath and hoping, for once, that Taft finally becomes the governor we all expected, right now when his leadership is sorely needed.

If Taft and the Ohio GOP leadership fail to keep the gun owner vote, they will lose the governorship and possibly the Ohio House and Senate.

Such a drastic change in power would have national implications due to Ohio's expected role as a key battleground states in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Gerard Valentino is the Buckeye Firearms Association Central Ohio Chair

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