To the editor:
On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, was one of the senators who helped defeat the Manchin-Toomey compromise amendment which would have extended background checks for gun purchases. The bill was initially supported by the pro-gun group Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Additionally, polls indicate that 90 percent of Americans favor extending background checks in an effort to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of those who are mentally unstable and to also hopefully help prevent tragedies such as the recent attack in Newtown.
In a statement on his website, Portman explained his decision to vote against common sense with the following non-specific justification: "I do not believe it would be effective in preventing the kind of heartbreaking loss of life seen in Newtown or in other recent tragic incidents. It does, however, contain several provisions that would make it more difficult for law-abiding Ohioans to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights."
Let's consider those two diversions - er - I mean reasons separately. First, is it reasonable not to vote for something which could help simply because it doesn't help enough? Isn't that like telling a drowning man that you'd like to throw him a life preserver, but you'd prefer to drain the pool?
Portman does claim in the same statement that he hopes to later vote in favor of a provision which "helps ensure those suffering from mental illness have access to the treatment they need, but also enforces and improves rules already on the books that limit their ability to threaten themselves and their communities." How does he hope to accomplish this Herculean task? According to Portman, "I will be supporting amendments to improve background checks by strengthening state reporting of individuals who courts have found to be mentally ill."
So Portman, who does not support expanding the medical safety net, claims he'd vote to somehow non-specifically get help to those with mental illnesses. He also claims he wants to "enforce rules already on the books" that limit their ability to hurt others, but he voted against M-T which would have done precisely that. And how exactly does "strengthening state reporting of individuals who courts have found to be mentally ill" help if we don't extend the background checks those reports would target?
So much for Portman's disingenuous claim that M-T didn't go far enough for him to support it; what about his claim that M-T steps on the toes of law abiding gun advocates? We're talking about background checks here, closing gaps in the already established need to police illegal or otherwise disallowed gun transactions. That's it. That's all.
In summation, Portman's claims ring hollow. He knuckled under to pressure from the gun lobbies, plain and simple; and in so doing he put all Ohioans - nay, all Americans at risk.
J. David Core