October 28, 2021
By David Codrea
Rob Portman won’t be seeking reelection when his term ends in January 2023. The Republican U.S. Senator from Ohio has had enough of politics, citing among his reasons for getting out, “partisan gridlock” and incivility.
“If we just keep pushing out to the right and to the left, there’s not going to be much left in the middle to solve the real problems we face,” Portman complained.
The problem with that is, there can be no middle ground with many of “the real problems we face,” like attacks on the right to keep and bear arms. The left is going for a monopoly of violence as it makes its intentions clear, with semiauto and magazine bans designed to gut the Militia of “the whole people,” and with the plethora of other edicts they’re demanding that will have the effect of enabling future registration and confiscations subject to an expanding list.
NRA gave a camo-wearing, shotgun-shouldering Portman an “A” rating and endorsement, not to mention generous campaign contributions and independent expenditures on ads, citing his “proven record of support for our Second Amendment freedoms.”
Those are fine words, but what do they really mean, particularly since Portman’s “Defending the 2nd Amendment” page on his website has him advocating “better enforcement of current gun laws” and working to “ensure our freedoms granted by the Founders.” It’s tough to imagine those Founders urging His Majesty’s government to provide “better enforcement of current Intolerable Acts,” and in any case they would have been horrified that a representative of the people would consider unalienable rights to be “endowed by” political office holders.
That mile-wide/inch-deep understanding is probably what got Portman on Gun Owners of America’s “See Which Members of Congress Betrayed Gun Owners” list. He was “one of 20 Republicans” who voted to confirm “rabid anti-gunner” Merrick Garland as Attorney General, joining no shortage of other NRA “A”- rated endorsees such as Mitch McConnell, Roy Blunt, Shelley Moore Capito, Bill Cassidy, John Cornyn… it’s tough finding someone on that list who’s not one of NRA’s “staunch supporters.”
The one certainty is someone will replace Portman. The second certainty is that any Democrat vying for the seat will be a doctrinaire gun-grabber.
So, what kind of Republican will be able to put a fire in the bellies of gun owners to motivate them to not just turn out the vote but do those extra things needed to win a campaign, like donating and volunteering? If they offer up an enemy within, like the execrable John Kasich, there’s hardly a point in going to the polls. And if they produce a mediocre squish, don’t look for voter excitement to carry the day.
Here's an idea that’s hardly ever been tried: What about a principled candidate who believes in the right of the people to keep and bear arms and understands why it is critical to freedom? How about someone not interested in “compromise” and who is committed to not just defending against new attacks, but in advancing gun owner entitlements (that’s what rights are, you know) and in rolling back existing infringements? How about someone who knows what he’s talking about, how to advance the truth, and how to call prohibitionists out on their lies?
Wouldn’t that be nice for a change? Don’t we as Americans and as gun owners deserve it?
So, Who’s In?
As noted, any Democrat will be a guaranteed gun-grabber. So far, two have declared they are running, Rep. Tim Ryan, who led a caravan of Moms Demand Action harridans screeching for even more disarmament edicts, and lawyer Morgan Harper, a “progressive Democrat” backed by the same people who supported Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Do we really need to know any more, other than they’re ambitious and trying to get wider name recognition from a happily obliging media?
The Republican field is broader, with six candidates having declared at this writing: former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, author JD Vance, investment banker Mike Gibbons and car dealer Bernie Moreno.
That’s five. The sixth, State Senator Matt Dolan, a “moderate Republican,” may as well be a Democrat as far as gun owners are concerned. Described by CNN as a “non-Trump Republican ... in the McCain lane, the Romney lane...” Dolan penned an op-ed in support of the state’s proposed STRONG Act, essentially a “red flag” edict that promises due process before gun confiscations without really delivering it, and requires “background checks” on private sales, and adds liability penalties to sellers. And no surprise here, Dolan admits “I understand this bill probably doesn’t go far enough for some and goes too far for others.”
Having adopted the language and rationale of the prohibitionists, is there any doubt on whose side he will “err” when new diktats are demanded?
Let’s look at the rest of the field, what lefty Cleveland columnist Brett Larkin calls “the Foul Five.” It’s not that he really wants readers to vote for Dolan, though. Come election time, any Republican will still be too “extreme,” which is something the simps in the compromise wing of the GOP never seem to get.
Mandel has been endorsed by the Senate Conservatives Fund PAC for answering in the affirmative to “Do you agree that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees an individual the right to keep and bear arms, and will you oppose all measures that infringe on this right?”
"We need to have constitutional carry where patriots can carry a weapon anywhere," Mandel declared, his assertions exploited by “progressive” Raw Story as if they were bad things. "At the end of the day, the Second Amendment is about combatting tyranny from the government. We've got tyranny coming out of the White House with Biden. But we also have tyranny coming out of governor's mansions like right here in Ohio where this squishy establishment Mike DeWine is trying to push mask mandates and vaccine passports on the people. And that's why we have to arm up."
On his campaign website’s “Where I Stand” page, he features a modification of the Texas “Come and Take It” Gonzales flag that replaces the cannon with a tactically tricked-out AR silhouette.
Timken’s website, on the other hand, rolls the Second Amendment into a broader “Our Values” statement about “Protecting our constitutional rights to life, liberty, and religion” on her Issues page.
“As a devoted Catholic, I am deeply and strongly pro-life. I believe our rights are God-given, not government-given, and that includes our fundamental rights to bear arms and worship freely,” she proclaims. “The government has no authority to infringe on these unalienable rights, and I will fiercely defend these liberties as Senator.”
How? When asked about “universal background checks” by USA Today affiliate the Times Reporter, she hedged her bets.
"There (are) appropriate times to have background checks, but the way that the proposals of the Democrats have done this, I disagree with,” she answered, trying to appease both sides. “There should be no infringement on people's Second Amendment rights."
When are those “appropriate times” she would not “disagree with,” what qualifies them as such, and how is a sentence without a trial not an infringement?
The On the Issues political stances website documents that candidate Mike Gibbons “strongly supports ... an absolute right to gun ownership.”
“I believe strongly in our Second Amendment rights, and I will work to protect those rights from those who would try to limit in any way our ability to protect ourselves,” he promises. “Our Founders wrote the Second Amendment to protect our God-given right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment isn't about hunting, it's about our ability to stand up and defend ourselves. A lifelong member of the NRA, I will never waver in my support of our Second Amendment rights.”
“I believe that our 2nd Amendment-- and the entire constitution--must be protected,” Moreno declares. “Our Second Amendment is currently under threat. I will always fight hard to protect and defend our Second Amendment rights.”
It would be nice if he spent more energy and emphasis on this and told gun owners “how.”
Another “Conservative” Contender
“J.D. Vance Enters Ohio Senate Race for Portman’s Seat,” a July Cincinnati Public Radio headline announced. “A crowd of about 300 people chanted ‘J.D.’ on the Tube Works factory floor in Middletown, Ohio.”
What could get 300 people cheering on a political newcomer? And where does he stand on issues near and dear to gun owners, like their keystone rights?
On his website, Vance identifies himself as “a conservative outsider” and “a true conservative.” He says Ohio needs “someone who is not a career politician, recycling cheap establishment talking points instead of focusing on our real problems.”
To his credit, he does appear to have a good understanding of the state of the Second Amendment.
“Joe Biden and anti-democracy multinational companies are trying to find new ways to take guns away from law-abiding citizens,” Vance says on his campaign website. “They’re making it harder to buy firearms and ammunition, and imposing new, unconstitutional regulations on American citizens. I will fight the gun grabbers, whether they’re federal bureaucrats enacting regulations or multinational companies punishing people for exercising their rights. When a payments processor attempts to restrict Americans from buying firearms or ammunition, I’ll push back with federal legislation.”
Vance wrote a pretty good piece that appeared in The Columbus Dispatch where he decried the Biden administration and an “unholy alliance” against guns between government and business, criticized the nomination of David Chipman to head ATF, showed he understood both the “ghost gun” and brace issues, and highlighted corporate efforts to financially undermine the right to keep and bear arms.
The rhetoric is excellent but in Vance’s case, he has a “Yuge” self-created contradiction that should make gun owners want to pin him down, and the reason this article puts extra focus on him.
“Senate hopeful J.D. Vance apologizes for criticizing Trump as 'reprehensible' in deleted tweets,” CNN reported. “Vance wrote in 2016 that he would not vote for Trump in the presidential election and instead] support Evan McMullin, a former CIA operations officer who ran as an independent.”
So, what was Vance’s beef?
"Trump makes people I care about afraid,” he explained. “Immigrants, Muslims, etc. Because of this I find him reprehensible. God wants better of us.”
What made McMullin a preferable candidate?
“Our 2nd Amendment rights must be protected. We have a Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, which the government must ensure,” McMullin declared in his Principles for New American Leadership. “Healthy immigration is important to our future. We must secure our borders, enforce our laws and facilitate the legal immigration of those who will contribute to American prosperity, security, and culture,” McMullin continued.
Contradicting those “principles,” in 2020, McMullin endorsed open borders, pathway-to-citizenship gun-grabber Joe Biden.
Speaking again of principles, since Vance is asking us for our trust and support, it’s not out of line to expect him to flesh out how he went from adamant “Never Trumper” to someone asking not to be judged for what he said in 2016. We deserve to know how the object of his contempt went from being “reprehensible” to being “a good president,” with a real explanation as to what changed and why. And if he would do a reversal on something that fundamental in such a short amount of time, what else might supporters see a polar shift on?
Firearms News made three attempts to ask Vance if he would be willing to answer some detailed questions about that and about the legislative agenda gun owners should expect to see him pursue. He has chosen not to respond.
A Third Rail We Touch at Our Peril
There’s one other question I’d insist on being answered, one most gun groups avoid with a lame “single issue” excuse because they don’t want Democrats and the media to portray them as hateful and xenophobic (as if they already aren’t doing that). I’m talking about immigration, both illegal and legal.
Audit all credible polls against real-world experience in places like California (and recently Virginia) and then produce credible data – not opinion, not anecdotes, not isolated examples, but something that can be independently validated – demonstrating that “amnesty” and a “pathway to citizenship” for millions of foreign nationals in this country illegally (and legally, with current culturally suicidal policies) will not overwhelmingly favor Democrats and anti-gunners. The inevitable --- and soon to be irreversible – outcome is that this will result in supermajorities in state and federal legislatures that will then be able to pass whatever anti-gun edicts they want, because that will result in confirmations of judges to the Supreme and federal courts who will uphold those edicts.
It should hardly be controversial to point out that a nation has a legitimate interest in establishing criteria for foreign nationals it will allow in and under what conditions. The Preamble to the Constitution scopes out the purposes of the delegated powers that follow, “…to provide for the common defense… and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” That’s awful tough to do if someone else’s posterity has voted away “the Militia of the several States.” At that point, it doesn’t matter how many “good gun votes” a politician has given you if the cultural terraforming he enabled along the way has rendered them all moot.
That’s what Democrats Ryan and Harper want, both against a border wall and for a “pathway to citizenship,” with Harper adding “racism” charges into the mix.
Dolan, for anyone interested in a Republican who supports gun laws, says “I will never support amnesty” and promises “I will fight to secure the border with walls, surveillance, virtual capabilities and personnel. I will stand for the Rule of Law.”
Mandel, per the Senate Conservatives Fund, calls for “real border enforcement without amnesty.” For whatever reason, his website does not include a position statement on its “Issues” page at this writing.
“Protecting our borders is essential to national security, economic security, and national sovereignty,” Timken states. “I will fight to finish the wall. I will re-institute the Remain in Mexico policy and end amnesty and catch and release.”
“Joe Biden is directly responsible for the crisis at our southern border. The unchecked immigration is out-of-control,” Gibbons echoes. “We are a country of immigrants, but we must control our own borders to exist as a sovereign nation, and we must continue to build the wall that was started under President Trump.”
“Reform our immigration system,” Moreno advocates. “As a legal immigrant, I know the importance of waiting in line to come to this country legally… of following the rules… of learning English… of assimilating into the American culture… of working hard to succeed… of achieving the American Dream. This issue is personal to me.”
He sounds like exactly the kind of immigrant the Republic would benefit from. Unfortunately, he and the other candidates are focused on illegal immigration and are offering no “reforms” on the current legal system that is admitting masses with a different understanding of the relationship between the government and the people. And that’s reflected by the way “naturalized” citizens are changing the political landscape by voting for Democrats and “gun control.”
Here’s where Vance again contradicts his earlier positions where he feared Trump and supported McMullin, because he alone has offered some unequivocal words about reforming legal immigration along with getting tough on the illegal kind. So, in addition to stopping illegal border crossings and opposing amnesty for those who have, he attempts to address what needs to be done to fix admission laws.
“In no other developed country do we allow migration primarily based on family relations rather than skills,” he notes. “Millions of people want to come here, and we should only allow them if they contribute something meaningful to our country. Importantly, our ability to assimilate immigrants successfully—something our country should be proud of—is contingent on American leadership that loves this country.
“Forty years ago, new American immigrants came to a country where bipartisan leaders delivered a simple message: this great country is now your own, and you have a duty to help build it,” he continues. “Today, those same leaders deliver a different message: this is an evil and racist country, and you owe nothing to it. Because of this, our capacity to assimilate the next generation of immigrants is limited, and our legal immigration system should account for this fact by changing who we let in and reducing the total numbers.”
That would be a good first step. It would help if he could give us a feel on what number he has in mind, the political and cultural impact that would have, and how he can assure us this 180 from his position a few years ago is not just words.
Hiring is Called a Process for a Reason
Think of one job you’ve ever applied for where you’d have gotten it if you decided to play coy with the hiring managers. There’s no reason why someone asking for our trust shouldn’t have to earn it. That goes for newcomers who want to break into the business and for career poltroons, arrogant enough by experience to let staffers respond with boilerplate form letters that go heavy on the weasel words and avoid answering specific questions altogether.
There’s no better time to change that than when a primary offers a chance to stand out from the pack.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Understand that this race is important to you even if you don’t live in Ohio as it's can be a vote for or against federal gun control.
About David Codrea
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. In addition to being a regular featured contributor for Firearms News he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.