In a sharp departure from the views which won him the National Rifle Association’s endorsement in 2014, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he would support new gun restrictions such as universal background checks and perhaps a ban on the sale of some semi-automatic assault weapons.
During an interview Sunday on CNN’s State-of-the-Union, Kasich expressed support not only for background checks for people trying to buy guns, but also banning what are known as bump stocks, which allow a semi-automatic weapon to be converted into an automatic weapon.
But Kasich went even further on CNN. In the aftermath of the shooting deaths of 17 people last week at a Florida high school, Kasich raised the possibility of prohibiting the sale of semi-automatic weapons such as the AR-15, which was used in last week’s shooting.
Shortly after the CNN interview, Kasich’s aides removed from his campaign web site a page which boasted that as governor, Kasich had “signed every pro-Second Amendment bill that crossed his desk.”
Those bills included measures which made it potentially legal to carry concealed weapons in day-care facilities and college campuses.
John Weaver, an adviser to Kasich who helped direct his 2016 quest for the Republican presidential nomination, said Kasich “is a supporter of the Second Amendment, but like many Americans – if not most – his views have evolved with the dramatic increase in school shootings and mass killings.”
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“We want our leaders to be unafraid to observe, listen and learn,” Weaver said, adding “we urge” President Donald Trump to “follow suit.”
Kasich’s abrupt reversal of his opposition to gun restrictions is yet another sign he plans to seek the presidency in 2020, either as a moderate Republican or independent. But his new stance is certain to infuriate the NRA, which has a major kick in Republican presidential primaries.
Kasich’s most astonishing shift was with the semi-automatic assault weapons. Kasich asked on CNN if anyone would “feel as though your Second Amendment rights would be eroded because you couldn’t buy a God-darn AR-15? These are the things that have to be looked at. And action has to happen.”
In 1994 as a member of Congress, Kasich voted to ban the production and sale of 19 semi-automatic assault weapons. But when he ran for president in 2016, Kasich called the ban “superfluous and we don’t need laws that are superfluous. It didn’t have any impact.”
The ban expired in 2004 when Congress failed to renew it.
Kasich said he has formed a committee “on both sides of the issue” in Ohio to propose recommendations on gun safety. Neither Kasich nor his aides have said who is on the committee.
“If they don’t produce anything, I’ll put my own stuff out,” Kasich said.
David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said he was “glad” Kasich is on national TV and “speaking out” on guns.
“Hopefully he’s got some ability to work with the statehouse to find solutions and roll back some of the worst pieces of legislation they pushed through in the last seven years,” Pepper said.
Kasich, who has yet to introduce a bill restricting the sale of guns in Ohio, called on Trump to “lead on this,” adding “this is a great opportunity for commonsense steps that can be taken just in the area of background checks.”
“There should be no ability to do a casual sale without somebody having to find out who they’re selling the gun to and what is involved,” Kasich said. “The president should be for that.”
“When it comes to the issue of mental illness … we need to take a look across the country that, if somebody’s mentally ill, it needs to be reported,” Kasich said. “And if somebody becomes emotionally distraught, it must be immediately examined by local law enforcement or the FBI.”
At least half-dozen bills are already pending in the Ohio House and Senate that call for: safe storage of weapons at home, universal background checks, a prohibition on gun possession by those convicted of domestic violence or subject to a protection order, and other measures, according to Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.
Conversely, there are at least eight bills pending that would expand gun rights, including shifting the burden of proof in self-defense cases and changing the duty to retreat – a so-called ‘stand your ground’ law, according to the Buckeye Firearms Association.
As governor, Kasich signed bills into law that expanded gun rights, including where concealed weapons permitholders may carry hidden guns.