J.D. Vance backed 'red flag' gun laws in 2018. Now he calls them 'a giant distraction.'

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'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,' the Ohio Republican said at the time.

Republican Ohio Senate hopeful J.D. Vance has spent much of his campaign attacking "gun grabbers" and opposing firearm regulations. But just four years ago, he urged his party to pass the very laws he now rails against.

The author and venture capitalist appeared at a March 2018 Darke County Republican Party dinner as the featured speaker. According to a local newspaper report on the event, Vance appeared to endorse new laws to disarm those who are an imminent danger to others.

"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," he argued at the time. "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."

In recent years, gun safety advocates have urged state and federal lawmakers to adopt extreme risk protection order legislation — often called "red flag" laws — to allow courts to temporarily disarm individuals deemed a danger to themselves or others. Studies have shown they are an effective way of reducing gun deaths, and at least 19 states and the District of Columbia have adopted these protections.

Even then-President Donald Trump endorsed the idea in 2019 in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. "We can and will stop this evil contagion," he promised. "That is why I have called for red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders."

But since announcing his Senate campaign, Vance has abandoned his support for any new gun safety legislation.

"We have a massive spike in violent crime because police officers are afraid to do their jobs. Any 'crime prevention' effort that focuses on job training or gun seizures is a giant distraction," Vance tweeted last June. "The dumbest argument you hear is that the spike in crime is because of guns. Oh really? Was there an explosion of firearm ownership over the last two years, or did maybe something else happen?"

Gun purchases spiked to record highs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and even before then, there were more guns than people in the United States.

Last July, Vance wrote an op-ed in the Columbus Dispatch warning that President Joe Biden and an "unholy alliance" was coming for Americans' guns and other liberties. "Violence in our country is much more about density than guns," he asserted. "That's why the Biden Administration's dull attempts to curb gun violence don't work and they threaten the very foundation of the rights we are afforded as free, American citizens."

Vance's campaign issues page contains similar language. "Joe Biden and anti-democracy multinational companies are trying to find new ways to take guns away from law-abiding citizens. They're making it harder to buy firearms and ammunition, and imposing new, unconstitutional regulations on American citizens," Vance's campaign website reads. "I will fight the gun grabbers, whether they're federal bureaucrats enacting regulations or multinational companies punishing people for exercising their rights."

Vance's reversal on this is but the latest in a long series of flip-flops from positions the "Hillbilly Elegy" author took before he decided to run for political office.

In 2016, he frequently lambasted then-candidate Trump as "xenophobic" and "an idiot". Last year, he said he regretted criticizing Trump and was "wrong about the guy."

Shortly after Trump's 2017 inauguration, Vance openly acknowledged the role white privilege plays in America, saying there were "obviously still advantages to being white" and "there are still disadvantages to being Black." As a candidate, Vance now wants people to have the power to file lawsuits against companies that tell anyone to "deconstruct their privilege, or they need to sacrifice or repent of their whiteness."

He also once backed mask mandates to curb the coronavirus pandemic but went on to question why kids should have to wear masks. "I don't know why we should mask our children under any circumstance, but especially not when Biden/Harris refuse to control COVID at our border," Vance tweeted last August.

Vance is one of several Republican candidates running to replace Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who announced in January 2021 that he would not run for reelection. A February Emerson College/The Hill poll found Vance in third place behind millionaire Mike Gibbons and former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) is leading the Democratic primary contest.

Update, 3:20 p.m.: Vance campaign press secretary Taylor Van Kirk gave the following statement to The American Independent Foundation:

JD has always been a staunch supporter of our 2nd Amendment rights and doesn’t believe in slippery slope restrictions like unconstitutional red flag laws. It’s worth noting that in his 2018 speech, referenced in this piece, not only does he not endorse red-flag laws, the term “red-flag laws” isn’t even uttered by him. Red Flag laws strip citizens of their due process rights and nowhere in this speech does JD endorse that or anything remotely similar. This is nothing more than a shameful disinformation spewed by a leftwing website, ran by a former adviser to Harry Reid no less.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.