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Government & Politics

Ohio Gov. Kasich Shifts on Gun Control, Wants to Expand Background Checks

photo of Gov. John Kasich

Gov. John Kasich appears to have changed his views on gun regulations, after years of saying he was a strong Second Amendment supporter on the rare occasions that he talked about it at all.

CNN labeled the interview with Gov. John Kasich on its show “State of the Union” “emotional" because of moments like this.
“Wake up! Our country is being hurt because of this!”
Kasich called on President Trump to “take some steps” on gun control, because he said he had no confidence in a dysfunctional Congress to address the issue. And because of that, Kasich said it needs to be dealt with at the state and local level.
“That’s where you need to put the pressure and call these people out.”
Web site changes
It was quite a pivot for a governor who has touted his Second Amendment credentials on his campaign website, in which noted he “has signed every pro-Second Amendment bill that has crossed his desk” and that he was endorsed by the NRA in his 2014 re-election bid. Sometime after that CNN interview, though, that page disappeared – replaced with an error message.

'Wake up! Our country is being hurt because of this!'

Kasich and the NRA
The move left many confused, since Kasich hasn’t talked much about guns. He had voted for a ban on assault rifles while in Congress, and got a failing grade from the NRA, which had endorsed Gov. Ted Strickland over Kasich in 2010. Since Kasich won, he’s signed a long list of bills expanding gun rights.
In 2012, just days after 26 kids and adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, Kasich said his support of the Second Amendment would not change, and that there were a range of issues involved, such as mental health, school security and a culture of violence. But he said he would not delay his plan to sign a bill allowing conceal-carry weapons permit holders to bring guns into the Statehouse parking garage.
“Whatever we do, we don’t want to erode the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”

'I don't think more laws are going to fix this.'

 On CNN in October 2015, just after eight people died in a shooting at an Oregon community college, presidential candidate John Kasich talked about reaching out to isolated, estranged people, but dismissed calls for more regulations.
“If I’m going to sell you a gun, do I have to go through all this checking? I’m supposed to have some responsibility as they are at the gun show, and they should exercise that responsibility. But I don’t think more laws are going to fix this.”
No knee-jerk reaction
Back in Ohio in June 2016, Kasich told reporters he didn’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction on gun control in the wake of the Orlando night club shooting, which left 49 people dead.
“This is more of a federal issue than it is that the state of Ohio – it’s got to be something that we all have to come together to look at.”
And then last year, in several national TV interviews after the shooting deaths of 58 people in Las Vegas, Kasich called for the banning of the attachments to semi-automatic rifles that allow them to fire faster. A bill to ban those so-called bump stocks was proposed in Ohio last year but hasn’t had a hearing.
​A working group
Kasich also wrote an op-ed and began talking about a group he wanted to convene to recommend what he called “common sense” regulations. At an Associated Press forum for journalists last month, I asked him whether he’d had that meeting.
“Yes, we have and it’s just a small group, sort of informal, like a lot of our meetings. And we have people who are very, very strong on pro-guns. ... I made it clear, you have to be for the Second Amendment. If you just want to take people’s guns away, forget it. And we had a very good meeting.”
And on CNN’s State of the Union this weekend, Kasich referenced that meeting again, but still with no specifics about who was there and what happened. But he did bring up the leader of the Republican-dominated House, which could consider 14 pending bills that would expand gun rights.
“The speaker of our House, Cliff Rosenberger, said he’s anxious to see what can be produced. We’ll see. And if they don’t produce anything, I’ll put my own stuff out.”           
All along, the page labeled “Defend the Second Amendment” remained on his campaign website -- until after the CNN interview this weekend. John Weaver, who was Kasich’s presidential campaign strategist, said on Twitter and in a statement that Kasich’s views have evolved. But he didn’t offer specifics on when that happened.
Kasich’s website now has a new page labeled “Common Sense on the Second Amendment." He mentions the meeting of what he calls a “bipartisan working group of gun owners and gun control advocates," and what he calls “reasonable reforms” such as “the potential of expanding background checks on gun sales and limiting the ability to sell weapons that have often been used in mass killings.”