Portman Takes Confusing Stance On Gun Regulations

Jun 15, 2016

In responding to the tragic mass shooting in Orlando, Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman wanted to make it clear where he stood on selling guns to suspected terrorists. But as Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports, his explanation seemed to cause even more confusion.

The U.S. Senate is trying to find middle ground on legislation that would prevent suspected terrorists from buying guns in America. Ohio’s Republican Senator Rob Portman wanted to firmly state that he supports banning people on the terror watch list from buying guns.

“And I hope the entire Senate votes to say that if you’re on the terrorist watch list, not just the no-fly list which is a must more targeted list but the terrorist watch list that you should not be able to buy a weapon,” said Portman. 

But Portman was asked if that’s a reversal of his position six months ago, when he voted against what’s known as the Feinstein amendment, named after Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.

“The Feinstein amendment dealt with the no-fly list which as you know is a subset, it’s a smaller list.”

That’s an inaccurate description. In fact the Feinstein amendment would’ve banned people on the terror watch list from buying guns. That’s a list of about 800,000 people. It also banned people on the no-fly list which is about 64,000 people.

When called out on his explanation, Portman said he was confused about which amendment was which.

Portman is facing what could be a tough battle against Democratic former Gov. Ted Strickland this fall. P.G. Sittenfeld, a Cincinnati city council member, made tougher gun regulations a top issue when he ran against Strickland in the Democratic primary, calling out both Strickland and Portman for their positions. Sittenfeld says Portman’s confusion on the issue is telling.

“Rob Portman found himself in a very awkward and very indefensible position for why he was against the Feinstein amendment. It’s hard to come up with a reason for why someone could be against that it did not align with common sense and I think that’s why you heard Rob Portman really struggling to make sense of it himself,” Sittenfeld said.

What Portman did vote for was an amendment from Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas. This measure allows the U.S. attorney general and U.S. attorneys to seek out temporary bans which can be made permanent through a judge. The Cornyn amendment and the Feinstein amendment both failed.

Portman’s office says if the Feinstein amendment came up for a vote again, he would vote against it again. He says it doesn’t do enough for people who want to appeal their ban.