Expect gun control, Constitutional Carry to be major issues in OH governor's race

(AP Photo/Philip Kamrass, File)

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine survived a primary challenge on Tuesday night and will take on Democrat Nan Whaley, a former mayor of Dayton in this fall’s election. While kitchen table and pocketbook issues like inflation will likely be the most pressing concern for voters, there’s a stark contrast between the two candidates when it comes to the Second Amendment and gun control, one that both candidates will be highlighting between now and November.

Whaley, who was mayor at the time of the 2019 shooting in Dayton in which a man killed nine people and wounded 17 others, has been trying to hit DeWine over his support for Constitutional Carry since he signed the measure back in March.

But Whaley isn’t just running on an anti-Constitutional Carry platform. As the Ohio Capital Journal recently reported, her platform puts her on a “collision course” with Republicans when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms.

Whaley, 46, wants to close a loophole that allows vendors at gun shows to sell weapons without conducting a background check on the buyer and to repeal recently passed legislation that removed a training and background check requirement to carry a concealed weapon in Ohio.

In interviews, Whaley has repeated the stale talking points of the gun control lobby; calling for “commonsense efforts on gun legislation” that make no sense whatsoever.

On gun violence, Whaley’s voice was thrown into the national fray after her city’s mass shooting at the trendy Oregon District in 2019. While promoting her workaround “bringing the community together” during that time, Whaley says her priority now is getting illegal guns off the street — which contribute to a rising rate of gun crime and gun homicides over the last three years.

“This issue of gun violence has nothing to do with responsible Ohio gun owners… I agree with 9 out of 10 Ohioans that we need a universal background check. A lot of these issues would be solved if we closed the gun show loophole if we made sure that everybody that bought a gun should be okay to have one. That’s not the case right now in Ohio.”

I look forward to Mike DeWine pointing out all of the blue states that have universal background checks already in place that are still experiencing a rise in violent crime. Colorado, New Mexico, and Washington State are among the states that have most recently adopted the law, and all three of them have seen their crime rates increase after the law was put on the books.

While Whaley will be making her case that the only way to make Ohio safer is to restrict the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, DeWine has staked out what I believe is a much more reasonable position: you fight crime by going after criminals, and don’t need to target the right to keep and bear arms in order to do so.

One of the problems that DeWine faces, however, is the fact that some of his crime-fighting proposals have yet to be adopted by the Republican-controlled legislature. After the Dayton shootings, DeWine unveiled a package he called STRONG Ohio, which wasn’t exactly a gun control bill but danced right up to the line of becoming one. One aspect of his proposal, however, seems like a no-brainer: increasing the sentences for violent offenders. Back in late March, a few weeks after signing Constitutional Carry into law, DeWine once again urged lawmakers to approve the idea as a standalone bill.

“We’re still asking the state legislature to take action on a bill, which I think is frankly a no-brainer, and that simply is, it says that violent repeat offenders who commit most of the violent crime today if they are in possession of a gun, a judge should have the ability to put them away for at least 10 years,” he said. “That’s a very simple bill. I’m again asking the state legislature to take action on that bill. What we’re seeing in our cities, but not just our cities but our communities across the state is, the violence that is occurring is predominantly from people who have committed violence in the past. It’s pretty simple. We need to go after these people. That bill is pending in the state legislature. It needs to be passed.”

Additionally, DeWine has announced a plan to more than double the number of ballistics imaging machines available to law enforcement across the state, which he says will be a valuable tool to help get violent criminals off the street. That’s not going to be game-changer for his campaign, but it does undercut Whaley’s argument that the incumbent is uninterested in fighting crime because he’s beholden to the gun lobby.

Gun owners care about crime too, which is something that Democrats don’t seem to understand (or, more likely, simply choose to ignore). The number one reason people give for purchasing a firearm is self-defense, after all. We just don’t believe that fighting crime requires criminalizing our right to keep and bear arms. Nan Whaley’s running on turning aspects of the Second Amendment into criminal offenses, and I don’t see that playing well among most Ohio voters.

Jun 25, 2022 12:30 PM ET