Roundtable chat with Democrat Ted Strickland on firearms

By Larry S. Moore, Buckeye Firearms volunteer and outdoor columnist

As reported last week, the US Sportsmen Alliance (USSA) Tenth Annual Ohio Rally and Banquet on September 16 featured both Ted Strickland and Ken Blackwell as speakers.

There have been various media reports about the speeches. The USSA invited the Outdoor Writers of Ohio to conduct press interviews with both Mr. Strickland and Mr. Blackwell. The press conference was limited to only members of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio. The press conferences lasted approximately thirty minutes each.

The following are comments from the roundtable with Congressman Ted Strickland.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources

Q: You have campaigned on a platform to cut taxes and spending. How do you plan to fund ODNR, particularly in light of the massive cuts in the state parks and DNAP in the last 8 to 10 years?

A: Well it has been Mr. Blackwell who has consistently campaigned on a platform of cutting taxes. I have campaigned on a platform of living within our means and investing in those things that are important. I've got a clear record of commitment to ODNR; I am not going to collapse it into another agency. I am not going to allow the resources coming to the state from sportsmen and sportswomen who buy licenses to be diverted to other sources Those resources ought to be used to further enhance wildlife, hunting and fishing and maintaining of appropriate habitat. There are some within the government now who would like to divert that money. They would find a governor who strongly objected to that if I were in the governor's office.

Q: If you look at the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves plus Parks and Recreation, both are broke. Can we recover those Divisions?

A: We have to. We are talking about a major part of the economy of this state. I think most Ohioans would be stunned to know the number of hunting and fishing licenses that are purchased and paid for by Ohioans. I think they would be shocked to know the econ impact of what takes place within the borders of this state. It is a significant part of Ohio's overall economy and it ought to be viewed as more than simply recreation. This ought to be viewed as a proper concern for the department of development. Ohio's communities benefit greatly. I represent an Appalachian area. I know what happens to Vinton County during deer and turkey season. I know the restaurants, hotels and businesses that are hugely benefited from this thriving industry. We've got to be committed to that it thrives.

Q: Ohio ranks way down the list, 47th, in the amount of public land available to its citizens to hunt, to fish, to hike, and backpack. Can we expand our programs to add more wildlife areas, more state forest, and more national forests?

A: Most of the Wayne National Forest is in my district. It has always been controversial with local school districts. The communities and school districts are not adequately compensated when land is taken out of the tax base. I certainly think we need to make sure that as we are able to in a fiscally responsible manner expand those kinds of resources that should be available to Ohioans. That includes protecting and expanding our state forests.

RUNNING MATES & GUNS

Q: Looking at the quest for the sportsmen vote do you think you are hampered at all by your choice of running mate, Lee Fisher, who is an avid gun control person?

A: I think those who may be opposed to me politically may look at that issue as an excuse not to support me. The fact is there is only one governor and I have a record that is impeccable – sterling. I think anyone who would look at the record of Ken Blackwell and Ted Strickland when it comes to these matters would have to conclude that I am by far the strongest candidate. The only time Ken Blackwell has been on record or has a chance to go on record is when he ran for Congress against Charlie Lukin. The NRA tells me that they sent him their questionnaire, as they did me that year, and Mr. Blackwell never responded. The NRA interprets a failure to respond as either outright hostility or indifference.

Q: Then you would dismiss it as a legitimate concern Lee Fisher's F rating by the NRA and that it is not a concern?

A: Lee Fisher is not running for governor. Lee Fisher and I have discussed this matter at great length before he became my running mate. His response was that he may feel differently about this matter but understands who is the Governor and will support those positions. I do not consider it a legitimate reason not to support me because I will be the person who will be making the decision regarding these matters. As I say my record is absolutely perfect on these matters in terms of gun owners, the Second Amendment and sportsmen groups. I don't think there is anyone in public life today in America that has a stronger position on these issues than I have.

Q: Often Lt. Gov is put in charge of cabinet level posts. What role would Mr. Fisher play in a Strickland Fisher Administration?

A: That is yet to be fully determined. It is most likely that Lee Fisher will help me with a major problem facing Ohio and that is economic development. He is a person of considerable experience. He will certainly be involved as Lt Governor in my administration. He will not be involved in any way with the issues that would be concerned to the sportsmen. Any decision regarding the ODNR, gun rights, legislation, will be my decision.

Q: I’d like to paraphrase what Ken Blackwell said, that Ted Strickland says he doesn’t like guns but he has voted for Second Amendment issues because his constituency has forced those votes.

A: He is a damned liar. I don’t know how much more blunt I can be than that. I don’t want to be unfair or harsh but I know what is going on here. I mean, I am a Democrat who has a really good record on these issues. These are issues that Mr. Blackwell and many in their party would like to claim as their issues. It really makes them angry to think that a Democrat could potentially get support from a constituency that they think only they should have.

The quote that Blackwell used is a partial quote in an interview with the Chillicothe Gazette. I believe the interview was back in 1976. Then he added to it that I vote that way because my constituents want me to. I have never uttered those words. I think it is true that my constituents appreciate the way I vote. I vote the way I vote because of the way I grew up, the family I grew up in and what I believe. I feel badly that I reacted as harshly as I did but you know you hit a hot button with me. I don’t like to be misquoted or things said about me which are untrue.

Q: Do you feel like you are running uphill as a Democrat seeking gun owner votes?

A: Oh no not at all, I mean I’ve had the A or A+ from the NRA from the time I started running for political office. Wayne LaPierre NRA VP came to my congressional district and hosted a fund raiser for me. I don’t feel like I am running uphill on this issue at all.

Q: But hasn’t Hillary Clinton also been in raising money?

A: Sure.

Q: That is opposite ends of the political spectrum for gun principles?

A: No no no, because someone coming in and hosting a fundraiser for me is one thing but the thing that really counts is my votes. I said tonight actions speak louder than words. You know anyone can state whatever they want when they are running for political office. I am proud of my record. I voted against semi-auto weapons ban (AWB) in 1994, voted to repeal it in 1996, voted to prevent the BATFE from imposing gun taxes and against creating a data base of gun owners, I voted to support gun manufacturer’s from being sued when their product is used in violent, I voted to keep gun shows from being put out of business, I co-sponsored and voted for the Remember New Orleans Bill. I was the only Democrat that spoke on the House of Representatives on the bill New Orleans Bill. I voted to allow air line pilots to carry. I am a co-sponsor of the national right to reciprocity bill. I fully support HB 347 here in Ohio. I am the guy who has stood up and shown my commitment. Ken Blackwell has never done that.

Q: What do you say to those big city Democrats where I come from in Cleveland who are anti-gun?

A: That is the strength of my position. I say in Cleveland Ohio what I am saying around this table. I met with the mayors. I told them that I believe in home rule with one exception. I don’t think home rule should interfere with Constitutional rights. I’ve been consistent. I think I am going to get a huge vote out of this constituency and it is one reason I am 20 points ahead in the polls.

Q: How important do you think the sportsmen vote is in the Buckeye State?

A: Oh it is hugely important – hugely important. It is a vote that cuts across party lines. It is a vote that is reflective of the values of our state. I think there are people who don’t have guns and have no interest in hunting but are offended by people who would limit these activities. That is what I mean when I say it is a deeply held value by the people of our state.

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