Ex-Gov. Strickland's Despicable Gun Lie

The Cleveland Plain Dealer | January 15, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Former Gov. Ted Strickland wants to use the 20 children massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School as a shield against his lifelong record of being a stooge for the gun lobby.

It's all so nauseating. And it's also part of an elaborate lie exposed Wednesday during a Statehouse news conference by Strickland's opponent in the March 15 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, Cincinnati City Councilman PG Sittenfeld.

When 12 students and a teacher were massacred at Columbine High School in 1999, Strickland, then a member of Congress, kept voting exactly the way the National Rifle Association told him to vote.

At the time, Strickland told The Plain Dealer's Sabrina Eaton he was "disgusted" that some members of Congress were using the Columbine tragedy to try to pass tougher gun laws.

Eight years later, when 32 people were gunned down on the campus of Virginia Tech, Strickland, then governor, said he saw no reason to respond by strengthening Ohio's gun laws.

Instead, he called for a moment of silence in the schools — noting in a press release it was being done at the request of Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.

No more than a moment. And only because another governor suggested it. How classy.

Now, running for the Senate in a year when fellow Democrats Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama are focusing relentlessly on the need for sensible restrictions on guns, Strickland wants us to believe what happened the morning of Dec. 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, moved him to change his mind.

He wants us to believe the slaughter of six adults and 20 precious little boys and girls caused him to conclude that a re-examination of gun laws is in order.

That's the lie. And Wednesday morning, Sittenfeld called him on it.

Using Strickland's own words, captured on tape, Sittenfeld exposed the former governor's Sandy Hook-inspired conversion as a despicable political stunt.

For months, Strickland's campaign staffers and apologists have told anyone willing to listen that Sandy Hook caused the governor to reassess his long love affair with every deadly weapon imaginable.

But Sittenfeld's campaign has now aired damning evidence suggesting Strickland is trying to have it both ways. He wants liberal Democrats to believe he's changed — and the gun lobby to believe he hasn't.

That evidence was found in an interview Strickland did with Ann Fisher, host of a regular program on WOSU radio in Columbus. The interview was conducted March 10, 2015 — more than two years after Sandy Hook allegedly caused Strickland to reconsider his views.

When "Jeffrey in Circleville" telephoned the program to ask about reports that Strickland was supporting tougher gun-control laws, the former governor denied it, adding:

"My brother, let me put my record in front of you. As a congressman, I had an 'A' and most of the time an 'A-plus' rating with the National Rifle Association. That has been my position and it is my position. So I know I have some political enemies that would like to re-interpret my beliefs, but they don't have a right to do that."

Then it gets worse.

"I was the guy who voted against the assault weapon ban," said Strickland, referring to a type of weapon used in the genocide at Sandy Hook. "The current governor of Ohio, John Kasich, voted for the assault weapon ban. So I will put my record up against anyone's record when it comes to defending the Second Amendment."

Reaction from the Strickland campaign was quick and, of course, deceptive.

Spokesman Dave Bergstein accused Sittenfeld of "resorting to a false personal attack" and saying the tape only reveals Strickland responding to a question and "talking about his past ratings from the NRA."

That's laughable. On the tape, Strickland is clearly bragging about his "A-plus" rating. He proudly volunteers that he opposed banning the types of weapons used to kill kids. And he never once even hinted that he now supports the slightest change in any gun laws.

If the slaughter of those 20 children genuinely moved Strickland, that 2015 interview was the time to say so.

Instead, he passed.

Strickland finished his answer to "Jeffrey in Circleville" with this:

"Ann, I try to be who I am. I don't try to tailor myself depending on the particular audience that I am addressing. So people can take me as I am, or then can reject me as I am."

Good advice.

Voters should choose the latter.