Meet an anti-gun safety Senate candidate: J.D. Vance

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The Ohio GOP Senate nominee has earned the National Rifle Association's highest possible rating and wants to 'ABOLISH the ATF.'

Though he once backed some efforts to curb gun violence, Ohio Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance is now running as a staunch opponent of "gun grabbers" in government or the private sector.

The "Hillbilly Elegy" author and venture capitalist is running for the open seat of retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). As a candidate, he has abandoned his previous positions on several issues, including laws to temporarily disarm dangerous individuals, and is now running as a hardline conservative on social issues like gun safety and abortion. Vance even tweeted a photo of himself bringing his toddler to a gun show last September.

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Vance in the race. His Democratic opponent is Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), who has pushed for expanded background checks and laws to keep guns out of the hands of potential criminals. Last month, Ryan voted for a bipartisan compromise package to combat gun violence, explaining, "While this legislation is not perfect, it is a tremendous step in the right direction to address the pervasive threat of gun violence in America. This is only the beginning."

A Vance spokesperson did not respond to an inquiry for his story. But a review of his positions reveals a consistent opposition to even widely popular proposals to reduce gun violence.

Funded by the National Rifle Association

While Vance makes no mention of his support from the National Rifle Association on his website, the gun group's June filing with the Federal Election Commission reveals that it directly contributed $4,950 from its political action committee to Vance's campaign.

Prior to the Ohio Senate primary, the group gave him an "AQ" rating — its highest possible grade for a first-time candidate.

Special protections for firearms vendors

Vance has a "Protect Second Amendment Rights" section on his campaign issues page in which he vows: "I will fight the gun grabbers, whether they're federal bureaucrats enacting regulations or multinational companies punishing people for exercising their rights. When a payments processor attempts to restrict Americans from buying firearms or ammunition, I'll push back with federal legislation."

This appears to be a reference to the fact that some financial institutions and credit card processing services — including PayPal, Square, Stripe, and Apple Pay — have decided not to partner with firearms companies.

Though the Republican Party's platform says the federal government should not be a "meddlesome monitor" in technological industries, some Republican lawmakers have pushed to interfere in their business decisions on behalf of the gun sector. In March 2021, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and most of his Republican Senate colleagues introduced a bill to give special rights to firearms and ammunition businesses and make it illegal for banks and credit card processors to not do business with gun-related companies or fossil fuel industries.

In a July 20, 2021, opinion piece in the Columbus Dispatch, Vance similarly argued that private businesses shouldn't be able to set their own policies on gun purchases or gun ownership.

Worryingly, perhaps the biggest threat to the Second Amendment comes not from the Biden Administration, but from some of our biggest companies. Blackrock, one of the world's largest money managers, recently began buying large numbers of single-family homes. And they have threatened to make it hard for their renters to own firearms.

 

Meanwhile, many of the biggest payments processors in the world have made it impossible to buy firearms, and credit card companies have openly discussed doing the same. This is insane: giving our biggest companies the right to dictate which rights American citizens are allowed to exercise.

A day later he tweeted, that the "Second Amendment will mean little if Visa won't let you buy ammunition."

Opposed even the bipartisan gun compromise

Following the May 24 mass shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school, which left 19 children and two adults dead, President Joe Biden urged Congress to take several steps to prevent similar tragedies, including banning assault weapons, banning high-capacity magazines, strengthening background checks, enacting safe storage laws and extreme risk protection orders otherwise known as "red flag" laws, and repealing gun manufacturers' immunity from liability.

At the very least, Biden argued, the United States should raise the legal age to purchase assault weapons from 18 to 21. The Uvalde shooter legally purchased two AR-style rifles days after his 18th birthday.

In response, Vance claimed without evidence that Biden's proposed policies would do nothing to stop future mass shootings. "None of these would improve the gun violence problem in this country. All of them satisfy the urge to 'do something' without actually doing anything useful, at great cost to the rights of people who follow the law," Vance tweeted on June 2.

Instead, he argued, the better solution would be to institutionalize more people against their will. "But whether they're an isolated teen in Texas or a screaming insane person outside of the New York subway, we need to ignore less and institutionalize more," he proposed, adding, "we need to be willing to institutionalize people more, both to clean up our streets and also to help some obviously very sick people. That would be far more effective than any 'red flag' law."

Experts have repeatedly dismissed proposals like this, noting that there is no evidence that mentally ill people are more likely to be violent than others. A 2014 study in the scientific journal Annals of Epidemiology found that just 4% of interpersonal violence in the United States can be attributed to mental illness alone, and that "the large majority of people with serious mental illnesses are never violent."

With Republicans in the Senate determined to block most of Biden's gun safety proposals, a bipartisan group negotiated a compromise package. Their bill — the Bipartisan Safer Communities Actincluded provisions to disarm people convicted of domestic abuse, fund the implementation of state "red flag" laws, and strengthen background checks for gun buyers under age 21.

It was passed with support from Portman and even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, but Vance made it clear that he would have voted against the package. In a June 22 interview on the right-wing Breitbart News Daily podcast, he said, "I think that the big issue here is that we're talking about giving a massive amount of bureaucratic power to federal and state governments, after two years of basically seeing people abuse that power in a different domain. So I think this is a bad idea. I would not support the legislation."

On the Breitbart podcast, Vance also dismissed gun violence as primarily "inner-city urban crime," called red flag laws a "slippery slope," and claimed that they "don't solve the problem of gun violence."

Flip-flopped on 'red flag' laws

Vance has not always opposed the idea of extreme risk protection orders. As recently as March 2018, he told attendees at the Darke County Republican Party dinner in Ohio, "We should make it easier to take those guns out of the hands of people who are about to use them to murder large numbers of people."

"We've got to have the right balance between protecting citizens, protecting our schools, and protecting the kids that go to them, but also protecting our really important and fundamental constitutional liberty," he said at the time.

But since deciding to run for Senate, Vance has done a U-turn and now says he opposes the idea. "Any 'crime prevention' effort that focuses on job training or gun seizures is a giant distraction," he tweeted in June 2021.

Defending untraceable 'ghost guns'

In his July 2021 Columbus Dispatch opinion piece, Vance defended "ghost guns" — the untraceable and unserialized gun kits that are sold online or at gun shows for at-home assembly, allowing buyers to evade background checks. These have been used in a growing number of gun crimes.

"Biden has also pushed for executive orders that would restrict 'ghost guns' and certain types of firearm braces," Vance wrote last year. "This is the worst kind of political showmanship: these restrictions will make it harder for law-abiding Ohioans to exercise their Second Amendment rights and neither will have even a small effect on gun violence in our country."

In February, the Biden administration launched the National Ghost Gun Enforcement Initiative to curb the guns' availability, and in April, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a ban on the manufacturing of some ghost guns and deemed the kits subject to the same rules as other firearms.

Vance tweeted "The Constitution would like a word..." in response.

Wants to abolish the entire DOJ bureau dedicated to handling gun crimes

According to its website, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) "is a law enforcement agency in the United States Department of Justice that protects our communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products."

Vance wants to eliminate it entirely.

In February, Vance falsely accused the agency of illegally tracking gun transactions. "Joe Biden's ATF is illegally collecting information on the gun transactions of millions of law-abiding citizens & putting them into a digital database. As Senator, I'll not only lead the fight against Biden's unconstitutional gun database, I'll fight to ABOLISH the ATF," he tweeted.

In a Cincinnati Enquirer op-ed, Vance acknowledged "the ATF serves a very important public safety function in our country," but added "it's time to get rid of it" anyway.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.