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Ohio's Sen. Portman Says He Supports Gun Checks but Not Necessarily New Laws


  Ohio’s Republican Sen. Rob Portman insists he supports strengthened background checks for gun purchases, though not necessarily a new law to do so. But Portman also says no one knows enough yet about the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., to determine if such checks would have made a difference.

In his weekly conference call with reporters, Portman was pressed on his vote in 2013 against the Manchin-Toomey Amendment, which would have required background checks for weapons bought at gun shows or on the Internet. He was vague in recalling his overall objections then, but said he felt the amendment may have reached too far.

“I think their notion was to try to deal with gun shows as I recall. And in gun shows, it’s primarily licensed dealers and they should all be subject to background checks and I agree with that. (But) I think they were expanding it in ways that, would affect let’s say a family, passing down a weapons, a shotgun, say, from a father to a son.”

Investigators have said all four guns used by Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik in the San Bernardino attack were purchased legally four years ago. California requires paperwork when a gun is transferred privately, but some other states do not.

Portman says this week’s mass killing appears to differ from others spawned by mental illness.

“I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be again better enforcement and there should certainly be much better mental health records and other things we talked about in terms of these other mass shootings. In this case, I just don’t know enough about what happened.”

But other cases, he maintains, may have been avoided with better sharing of mental health, criminal and criminal background information under current gun-check laws.

M.L. Schultze came to WKSU as news director in July 2007 after 25 years at The Repository in Canton, where she was managing editor for nearly a decade. She’s now the digital editor and an award-winning reporter and analyst who has appeared on NPR, Here and Now and the TakeAway, as well as being a regular panelist on Ideas, the WVIZ public television's reporter roundtable.