JULIE CARR SMYTH
COLUMBUS — A former Ohio governor whose political career was built with help from the National Rifle Association said Monday that it’s time to bring gun rights advocates, the entertainment industry and politicians together to reduce violence after the massacre of 26 people at a Connecticut school last week.
Democrat Ted Strickland spoke Monday after participating in the Ohio Electoral College that delivered Ohio’s 18 electoral votes for President Barack Obama.
Strickland said the Second Amendment assuring the right to bear arms should be subject to reasonable limits, as is the case with the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech. He said restrictions could be worked out through frank dialogue for the good of the country.
“I’ve always been a strong Second Amendment person, and I do believe the Second Amendment is a part of our constitutional guarantee and needs to be honored as such,” he said. “Having said that, I believe that this country is facing a culture of violence that is intolerable and cannot just simply be accepted as a way of life.”
Strickland’s comment came as he weighs a run against Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014. Strickland was ousted by Kasich in 2010 while seeking re-election.
A native of Appalachian Ohio, Strickland has received steady NRA endorsements as a congressman and governor — including during his re-election bid against Kasich. Strickland received $2,500 during that year from the NRA’s Political Victory Fund and ran ads skewering Kasich for an “F” rating he once got from the group as a congressman — though Kasich’s rating at the time of the race was a “B.”
Strickland said Obama needs to convene a commission representing differing points of view on the issue, “and we need to avoid the extremes.”
He also suggested that an effort might need to be launched to diffuse the NRA’s political clout in Washington and at Statehouses — “the same thing that’s been done to (Americans for Tax Reform founder) Grover Norquist and his anti-tax pledge.”
“There needs to be a recognition that we cannot continue to lose thousands and thousands of innocent people to gun violence,” he said.
Last week, Ohio state lawmakers sent Kasich a bill that would allow guns to be left in vehicles parked in a garage under the Statehouse. The measure also eliminated a competency requirement for those renewing their concealed-carry permits.
Kasich has said he’ll sign the legislation, though the liberal policy group ProgressOhio was trying Monday to build pressure for a veto after the deadly shooting spree Friday, which killed 20 schoolchildren and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Kasich reiterated his continued support for the Second Amendment in a statement Monday that also emphasized the need to learn from Connecticut.
“There are a range of issues at play here involving mental health, school security and a culture that at times fails to reject the glorification of violence that can desensitize us to the sanctity and majesty of life,” he said in a statement. “Going forward, we need to pay close attention to what the experts conclude from this incident in order to see if there are lessons to be learned and applied here in Ohio.”
The incident remained high on people’s minds around the state.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted opened Monday’s meeting of the Electoral College with a moment of silence for the victims of the tragedy, while others around the state were also remembering.
Ohioans prayed for the fallen and church leaders tried to make sense of the tragedy during services and vigils throughout the state on Sunday.