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Ohio Senate candidate says gun laws are a key difference in the 2016 race
P.G. Sittenfeld says both Portman and Strickland are too beholden to the NRA
This story is part of a special series.

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M.L. Schultze
P.G. Sittenfeld draws clear lines not only with Republican Rob Portman but with fellow Democrat Ted Strickland over gun issues.
Courtesy of M.L. Schultze
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One of the Democrats running for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat devoted his entire speech in Akron today to guns, insisting the public is ready for what he calls common-sense  reform even if Congress is not. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports P.G. Sittenfeld also used his address to the Akron Press Club to draw sharp contrasts between himself and both his Democratic and Republican opponents.
LISTEN: Sittenfeld on gun laws he'd support

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Sittenfeld complete address to the the Akron Press Club

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Sittenfeld, a 31-year-old Cincinnati councilman, took questions from the group of about three dozen people on any issue. But first he spent 20 minutes on a single topic: changing gun laws.

“Universal background checks with no gun show or internet or other loopholes. Reinstating a ban on assault weapons that have no business being in our neighborhoods and in our streets. Making straw purchasing a federal crime. And then I think there’s some innovative things like potentially micro-stamps in ammunition. There is a host of proposals that can be passed. We need leaders with the political will and the courage to do so.”

Sittenfeld says neither his opponent in the Democratic primary in March – former Gov. Ted Strickland – nor the GOP incumbent -- Rob Portman -- has shown leadership on the issue.

“I’m seeing very little courage on the issue of gun safety and gun violence from either Ted Strickland or Rob Portman. … That comes as no surprise because Rob Portman has an A rating from the NRA and Ted Strickland has an A+ rating from the NRA. So I don’t think this is an issue in which they’re in a position to make the change we so desperately need.”

Sittenfeld especially pressed the question of why Portman has supported a ban for people on the federal terrorist watch list from being able to buy guns. Some opponents of such a ban say those on the watch list have not been convicted of crimes and could end up there because of mistakes or a vendetta.

Portman has said he supports more thorough background checks, but thinks that could be accomplished through better collection and sharing of data and enforcement of existing laws.

Strickland will be speaking to the Akron Press Club in January.

Running against his party's endorsement

LISTEN: Sittenfeld on gun laws he'd support
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Sittenfeld is running for the U.S. Senate seat against the wishes of his state Democratic party, which is endorsing Strickland in the primary. The Princeton grad, who is named in part for two of the four Beatles, acknowledges he's a long-shot. 

“It’s not lost on me that I’m not a broadly known entity across the state, but you know we haven’t spent our campaign resources yet. People haven’t really tuned into the race.”

Still, he insisted he’s trying to help, not hurt, the party, and a robust primary is one way to do that. 

State Sen. Tom Sawyer praised Sittenfeld's policy speech but said he's not going to repeat his party's mistake and endorse either Sittenfeld or Strickland -- yet.

“I felt bad that for one reason or another our party decided to make a very, very early endorsement. I think many people throughout Ohio have come to a conclusion that that may have been a mistake.”

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