By Dan Sewell
CINCINNATI: Ohio’s Republican senator Thursday defended his opposition to legislation adding new gun sales restrictions, telling a national police officers conference there are better ways to combat gun violence.
Sen. Rob Portman said the proposed expansion of background checks for online and private firearms sales wouldn’t significantly impact gun violence and wouldn’t have prevented such mass shootings as the elementary school slayings in Newtown, Conn.
Instead, Portman said in a speech to the Fraternal Order of Police national conference that the measures would add restrictions infringing upon the rights of law-abiding gun owners who aren’t the problem.
“We can do this in a way that addresses the fundamental problems,” Portman said, saying some of his critics on the issue are pushing a political agenda. He noted that speakers on a national bus tour promoting gun-control measures have cited his vote. The tour, which has made stops in Ohio in recent days, is coordinated by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group that includes Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory.
“I’m not focused on the politics of it. I’m focused on what will actually help to reduce gun violence and make our communities safer,” Portman told reporters after his speech.
“People who are actually committing crimes with guns don’t get their guns from those kinds of private sales,” he said. He said he supports strengthening background checks with more information on mental health issues and targeting habitual offenders he says are responsible for the vast majority of gun crimes, among other steps. He also promoted “Second Chance” legislation to help people who have been in prison move back into society productively.
Ohio’s Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown supported the private firearms background checks legislation.
Many among the thousands of FOP participants applauded Portman, while some expressed mixed views on gun legislation.
“We should enforce the laws we already have on the books instead of adding more laws,” said Bruno Tommasini, a retired police officer from Parma.
Gerald Wise, a Summit County sheriff’s deputy, said all gun sales should go through dealers. The law enforcement officer said he supports concealed carry and other laws for gun ownership, but is wary of private gun sales at gun shows and other venues.