Ohio senator faces questions over gun vote
SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — As Ohio Sen. Rob Portman traveled through the state during this week’s congressional recess, he got plenty of heat for his recent vote against a bipartisan bill that would have expanded background checks to more gun sales.
Groups in favor of the legislation protested some of his appearances and an Ohio woman whose son was killed in last year’s mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater tried to set up a meeting with Portman to express her frustration with his vote.
Jerri Jackson, 52, of Springfield, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Dayton Daily News that she thinks a background check might have kept her son’s killer from buying a gun after police at his university expressed concerns about his mental health.
Her son, Matthew McQuinn, was shot nine times last July as he tried to protect his girlfriend from the gunman. James Holmes is charged with killing her son and 11 other people.
“Assault rifles have no place on the streets of America,” Jackson said. “If he did not have that high-powered magazine, he would not have been able to shoot as many people as he did as quickly as he did.”
Jackson said she unsuccessfully tried to set up a meeting with Portman this week to tell him her story.
A Portman aide said the senator’s schedule did not allow him to meet with Jackson this week, but he would consider it in the future.
Portman has met with other victims of mass shootings and said last month that he doesn’t think the legislation would have prevented any of those tragedies.
Rather, he said its implementation would make it harder “for law-abiding Ohioans to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights.”
He said the legislation would have made it a felony for private citizens to sell guns to lifelong friends without a background check, and would make it “onerous” for people to loan guns to neighbors for even a short period of time.
He backed amendments that would have strengthened state reporting of individuals whom courts have found to be mentally ill, to address the “glorification of gun violence in popular culture” and to crack down on those who bypass current gun laws to deliver weapons to violent criminals.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed 84 percent of Ohio voters support the checks. That included strong majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents, both men and women, and both blacks and whites.
“We are going to hold senators who voted ‘no’ on background checks accountable for their vote, particularly senators where we know their vote flew in the face of the overwhelming support of their own constituents,” said Erika Soto Lamb, spokeswoman for Mayors Against Illegal Guns. “We are going to ask them to explain their vote. We will remind people, up until election day, that their senator does not stand with them on this issue.”
In downtown Cincinnati on Saturday, supporters of background checks protested Portman’s vote in bustling Fountain Square, where a party celebrating Cinco de Mayo was in full swing.
“What do we want? Background checks! When do we want them? Now!” chanted the group, who held signs that read “Shame on Sen. Portman” and “Represent Ohio, not the gun lobby.”
“We’re still here and we’re going to be heard,” said Beth Smith, 27, organizer of the Cincinnati area’s Organizing for Action. “We’re not going to back down on this.”
Meanwhile Jackson said she feels like Portman is avoiding her.
“I would like for him to at least sit down and talk to me,” she said. “To hear my story and hear the heartbreak of a mother who lost her son in the prime of his life. How guns have played a part in our lives, but it is what ended his life. We need to do something about it.”
Jackson’s husband, David, said the couple supports 2nd Amendment but is against high-capacity magazines.
“We’re not against guns,” he said. “But you’re only allowed to have three or six shots in a rifle to go hunting. You shouldn’t be allowed to have that much on the street.”
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