COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday questioned whether his primary opponent, who has a top rating from the National Rifle Association, really tempered his position on gun control after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.
P.G. Sittenfeld said fellow Democrat Ted Strickland defended his A-plus NRA rating as recently as March of last year. Sittenfeld produced Strickland's comments to a radio show caller as evidence.
The NRA rating "has been my position and it is my position," Strickland said on the WOSU radio show on March 10. He also defended his votes against an assault rifle ban as a U.S. congressman.
Later, Strickland also said: "So I will put my record up against anyone's record when it comes to defending the Second Amendment."
More than two years after Sandy Hook, "Gov. Strickland was still bragging about his A-plus rating from the NRA and still defending his votes to keep the same types of assault weapons that killed those kids on the streets of our cities," said Sittenfeld, a Cincinnati city councilman.
A Strickland spokesman, David Bergstein, said the former governor supports additional measures to address the epidemic of gun violence. Strickland's positions on gun control began to change after Sandy Hook and other mass shootings, Bergstein said.
Strickland supported an unsuccessful 2013 bill that would have expanded criminal-background checks to people buying guns at gun shows or on the Internet. He also supports banning people on the national no-fly list from buying guns and doing more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, Bergstein said.
To refute Sittenfeld's arguments, Bergstein offered up an interview done by Strickland in 2012, shortly after the Sandy Hook shootings, in which he said it was time for a reassessment of gun laws.
"There needs to be a recognition that we cannot continue to lose thousands and thousands of innocent people to gun violence," Strickland said.
Strickland lost his re-election bid in 2010 to current Gov. John Kasich, a Republican.
Sittenfeld supports background checks for every gun sale, ending the ban on federal research into gun violence and a ban on assault rifles.
The winner of the March primary faces incumbent GOP Sen. Rob Portman in the fall. Portman has criticized Strickland for going to work for the Center for American Progress, a liberal policy group that supports gun control laws.
Portman has said gun violence can be curbed by enforcing current law and strengthening background checks with better mental health records.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/andrew-welsh-huggins