"Am I a part of the cure/Or am I part of the disease?”
–From “Clocks,” Coldplay
John Kasich, the former Ohio governor who was roundly defeated in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries by Donald Trump, was doing that thing on March 25 that so many conservative politicians do when they talk about gun control. He was pressing his hands against his ears, telling CNN’s Kate Bolduan, “I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you.”
He didn’t literally say that, nor cover his ears, but he might as well have.
Kasich was interviewed on CNN last Thursday, after mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado in which a total of 18 people were gunned down.
Bolduan had asked Kasich what lessons President Biden might learn from Kasich’s attempt to enact gun control measures as governor of Ohio after the Las Vegas massacre in October 2017, when a 64-year-old Nevada man opened fire on the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, killing 60 and injuring 411.
If only 10,000 Ohioans had marched on the Statehouse in Columbus, then perhaps he would have been able to “jam it through,” Kasich lamented, referring to gun-control legislation. But, he said, people didn’t show up to demonstrate, so he couldn’t.
He must have a short memory.
Five months after the Las Vegas shooting, on March 24, 2018, a throng of Ohioans marched on their Statehouse, demanding stricter gun-control laws. The Columbus Dispatch described the scene this way: “Veteran activists and first-time protesters were among the thousands of people who gathered near Downtown on Saturday to take part in the Columbus March For Our Lives rally. People of all ages congregated . . . to listen to speakers promoting school safety and gun control.”
The rally followed the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 14 students and three adults were killed and 17 others injured. It was one of more than 700 demonstrations that took place across the country as part of the student-led March For Our Lives movement, with hundreds of thousands of people — of all ages — demanding action on gun control.
In 2018, Kasich had appeared on CNN — also on March 25 — to speak on gun control. Elected leaders “should be held absolutely accountable at the ballot box” for their failure to pass stricter gun-control measures, Kasich told Brianna Keilar on “State of the Union.”
Now, just three years later, Kasich appears to blame our nation’s abject failure to act on gun control on we, the people, because, apparently, we haven’t been loud enough in our persistent cries for change.
Forget for a moment that Kasich lied to Bolduan — and she never challenged him on his claim that Ohioans did nothing. They most certainly did turn out in droves to demand change, so Kasich has a lot of gall to blame them.
Fifty-seven percent of Americans want to see our laws governing the sale of firearms made stricter, according to recent Gallup polling. That’s down 10 points since 2018, when demand for tougher gun laws peaked, but it’s still a majority of Americans.
So why pick on Kasich? He, after all, is a Republican who was once a darling of the National Rifle Association and then did an about-face and at least tried to pass gun-control laws in a red state.
But I need to take my frustration out on someone. As a nation, how do we overcome the inertia on gun control if Kasich represents the best of the Republican Party on the issue? What, precisely, would it take to shift the tide, to stem the violence, to find peace at last?
Kasich argues that we need more marches. How many? How large? Give us the plan. We need a blueprint for action.
We, the people, tried what you suggested, John, but nothing came of it. If we couldn’t pass stricter federal gun-control laws through mass demonstrations in 2018, then gun culture surely has us locked in its vise-like hold. What we need is leadership — courageous leadership.
Simply put, our federal lawmakers must step up. The people have done their part, time and time again. Now it’s our elected leaders’ turn. They, and they alone, can enact legislation to protect the American people, including a federal background check for all firearms, which would eliminate the gun-show loophole that allows anyone in 41 states to buy a firearm without any such check.
Only six states — California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island — require universal background checks for all firearm sales at gun shows, according to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Three states — Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania — require them for handguns.
If our lawmakers were in the room with me now, I’d tell them the time for dithering and bickering has ended. For God’s sake, just do your jobs.
Scott Brinton is the Herald Community Newspapers’ executive editor and an adjunct professor at the Hofstra University Herbert School of Communication. Comments about this column? SBrinton@liherald.com.