Ohio Pro-Gun Republican, Where Art Thou?

By Gerard Valentino

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

At both the federal and state level, Ohio's Republican political machine not only churns out winning candidates, but they inexplicably do so while pursuing an openly anti-gun agenda.

Both United States Senators from Ohio, Mike DeWine and George Voinovich, supported a renewal of the Clinton assault weapons ban. DeWine even co-sponsored legislation designed to create a stricter version of the original ill-conceived law. His fellow sponsors include Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA), both noted gun-grabbers who have admitted their ultimate goal is total gun confiscation.

DeWine also continues his efforts to close the non-existent gun show loophole and was the only Republican to speak on the Senate floor in opposition to legislation granting gun companies immunity from frivolous lawsuits.

During his tenure as Ohio governor, Voinovich single handedly blocked concealed-carry. Yet he still emerged with enough political clout due to backing of Ohio's Republican Party to mount a victorious campaign for the United States Senate.

Not the actions of a party that truly supports Ohioans right to bear arms.

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Current governor Bob Taft carried on Voinovich's sad legacy by stonewalling legal concealed-carry for his first term and only dropped his opposition after poisoning the legislation with onerous restrictions driven by his refusal to sign a bill not endorsed by law enforcement.

For many Taft's actions reeked of elitism since he enjoyed the protection of armed body guards, and law enforcement already can legally carry a gun for self-defense.

The "for-we-but-not-for-thee" policy, as it became known, was a slap in the face to law-abiding citizens statewide.

Currently, HB347, which fixes many of the poison pills in the current concealed carry law, is making its way through the Ohio legislature. It was overwhelming passed in the House and now is being debated in the Senate.

HB347 removes the ridiculous car-carry provision that mandates a gun must be carried in "plain sight," regardless of the fact that the phrase doesn't have a clear-cut definition under Ohio law.

The new legislation stops the media from using a loophole in the law to print the names of license holders and allows rape victims and people being stalked to opt out of having their private information printed in the newspaper.

Taft immediately threatened a veto of the legislation and stands by his original decision to insert the inane provisions into the law.

Underlining the battle to get a fair concealed carry law is the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary race that pits State Attorney General Jim Petro against Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

The winner will be pitted against presumptive Democrat pro-gun candidate Ted Strickland.

Both Petro and Blackwell know the gun-vote is vitally important in their primary and the general election and have done much to court gun-voters. Many of Ohio's gun voters are waiting to see if the Republican leadership delivers on their promises to fix the concealed carry law

Much like Bob Taft prior to his run for governor, Jim Petro lacks a background that allows voters to accurately gauge his support for the right to bear arm -- a terrifying proposition for many of Ohio's pro-gun Republicans who are still stinging from wounds inflicted by Bob Taft.

Unfortunately, until he can prove otherwise, Petro is forced to live with the sins of other Republican leaders. Not a fair course of events, but pro-gun Republicans played fair and voted for Taft only to be tossed under the bus once it was politically expedient.

In contrast to Petro, who is seen as a party insider and therefore worthy of suspicion, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell has a reputation as a party outsider which helps his image among gun-owners.

Blackwell's public statements in favor of the right to bear arms combined with his conservative agenda might be enough to win the vote of many pro-gun advocates. He does, however, lack a definable record on gun issues since he has never served in a position that could meaningfully affect gun policy.

Ohio's gun owners and concealed license holders simply want a fair law that gives the presumption of innocence back to honest citizens. They also want the hard work done in the legislature by Representative Jim Aslanides, Representative Tim Schaffer and Senator Joy Padgett, among others, to be rewarded by seeing HB347 become law.

Either Blackwell or Petro could significantly increase their stock by promising to change many of the unfair restrictions inserted into Ohio's concealed-carry law by Bob Taft.
Neither has committed to doing so leaving Ohio's gun owners once again without an invitation to the Republican Party dance.

Instead they are forced to wait, hope and ask, Ohio Pro-Gun Republican, where art thou?

Gerard Valentino is the Buckeye Firearms Association Central Ohio Chair.

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