COLUMBUS — U.S. Senate candidate Ted Strickland’s support for mandatory background checks for gun-buyers was not inspired by the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, but rather by politics, his Democratic primary opponent, P.G. Sittenfeld, charged Wednesday.
The Cincinnati city councilman replayed a radio interview from March 10, 2015, in which Mr. Strickland, a former congressman and Ohio governor, defended his past A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association.
The gun rights organization endorsed him in his unsuccessful re-election bid in 2010 against Republican John Kasich, in part because Mr. Strickland opposed and Mr. Kasich voted for the 1994 assault-weapons ban. Mr. Strickland has since voiced support for President Obama’s executive order expanding background checks for gun purchases.
Mr. Sittenfeld questioned the timing of the conversion and again urged the Democratic front-runner to debate him. Both are seeking the party’s nomination in the March 15 primary election to face Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Rob Portman in November.
Twenty-six people, mostly children, were killed in the Sandy Hook rampage in Newtown, Conn., in December, 2012. The killer had gotten the weapon from his mother.
“We now know that two years and three months after those children were slaughtered, Governor Strickland was still bragging about his A-ratings from the NRA and still defending his votes to keep the same types of assault weapons that killed those kids on the streets of our cities,” Mr. Sittenfeld said.
Strickland spokesman David Bergstein said the interview cited by Mr. Sittenfeld only features the former governor talking about his past rating. Instead, he pointed to a video of a post-Sandy Hook discussion with Statehouse reporters in which Mr. Strickland called for an “appropriate balance” in gun laws that would avoid the “extremes.”
“Ted supports additional measures to address the epidemic of gun violence like background checks and closing the terrorist gun loophole that will help keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists, criminals, and the mentally ill,” Mr. Bergstein said. “The only candidate in this race who doesn’t support common-sense background checks and closing the terrorist gun loophole is Sen. Rob Portman, and it is unfortunate that P.G. is resorting to a false personal attack against former Governor Strickland in an effort to bring attention to his campaign.”
Mr. Strickland supports Hillary Clinton in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination. Mr. Sittenfeld has not taken sides but does have differences with Ms. Clinton’s chief opponent for the nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Mrs. Clinton has challenged Mr. Sanders’ past support of immunity to gun manufacturers for crimes committed with their products.
“Let’s be crystal clear about this with regards to Bernie Sanders on the gun issue,” Mr. Sittenfeld said. “Bernie Sanders — D-minus NRA rating. Ted Strickland — A-plus NRA rating. … If this election becomes an election between Ted Strickland, with his A-plus NRA rating, and Rob Portman, with his A NRA rating, no matter who wins, the NRA can’t lose.”
Last week Mr. Sittenfeld called on Mr. Kasich, a GOP presidential candidate, to issue an executive order banning gun sales in Ohio to individuals on the terror watch list.
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