Wednesday, November 3, 2010

UPDATED The new political landscape for Ohio gun owners and sportsmen

With the 2010 general election receding in the political rearview mirror, the nation’s gun owners and sportsmen can take stock on what the heck actually happened Nov. 2.

Much of it is good news, some of it not so good news. A mixed bag then, but with more delectable goodies than lumps of coal.

Certainly at the very top of the barrel is the cream that rose when current (and soon to be former) Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was handed a drubbing of political biblical proportions.

Few other political leaders have experienced such frustrated, angry opposition as had Pelosi, a West Coast liberal of the first stripe that had little regard for Second Amendment rights believers and they the same for her.

She is now a note in the history books, replaced by Ohio U.S. Rep. John Boehner who clearly enjoys a much more cordial relationship with the National Rifle Association.

Likely, too, the Republican tilt in the House will mean new committee chairs, very possibly filled by officials who are viewed more favorably by gun owners and vice-versa.

And add U.S. Senator-elect Rob Portman to the plus side of the pro-hunting, pro-gun, pro-sportsmen ledger. He will replace retiring U.S. Senator George V. Voinovich, who never did garner much enthusiasm from gun owners or their Washington-based lobbying wingmen.

Still, Portman has a long reach ahead of him if he’s ever to match Voinovich’s determined drive to protect the Great Lakes in general and Lake Erie in particular.

Across the country gun- and sportsmen-related ballot issues also proved the yin and yang of fickle voters.

In North Dakota, voters rejected by a large margin an attempt to ban high-fence big-game hunting operations. And pro-hunting proposals were passed in places as diverse as Tennessee, South Carolina and Arkansas while one Kansas ballot issue ensuring the right to own firearms passed.

However, a referendum that would protect Arizona wildlife management from the meddling of anti-hunters through the initiative petition route was defeated.

On the home front here in Ohio, the snapshot is not so clear.

Even with the backing of both the National Rifle Association and the Buckeye Firearms Association, neither incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland nor incumbent Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray could overcome the Republican fire storm. Each of these devoted pro-Second Amendment officials crashed and burned Tuesday, set afire by angry voters holding their lit torches as they stormed the polls on Tuesday.

Rising from the ashes is the new Republican phoenix of John Kasich as governor-elect and Mike DeWine as Ohio Attorney General-elect. While neither of these two now successful candidates had the same level of sportsmen support as did Strickland and Cordray (or Portman, for that matter), at least one former Ohio Division of Wildlife official says Ohio sportsmen should cut the two men some slack.

Mike Budzik was chief under then-governor Bob Taft and is himself a dyed-in-the-wool Republican of the first order.

Budzik swears on a stack of hunting law digests that both Kasich and DeWine have been doing their homework and legwork in an attempt to create detente with Ohio’s gun owners and sportsmen.

“DeWine even took a concealed carry class and got his permit and he’s been to the state’s trappers annual meeting,” Budzik said in a Wednesday aftermath election telephone interview.

What Ohio’s hunters and anglers can expect when Kasich takes over in January is more than just a shuffling of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ deck chairs.

Anticipate sweeping reform, perhaps in the guise of an extensive make-over that very well could include a blessing from the new-GOP-controlled Ohio House and existing GOP-controlled Ohio Senate.

Perhaps as well, Budzik says, the Wildlife Division will be granted a divorce from the Natural Resources Department and be wedded into a more independent fish and game commission instead.

Along with that will almost certainly materialize a fusion of various state agencies with perhaps the Natural Resources Department merging with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Some state representatives have long salivated over just such a prospect, their fingers crossed that they’d have the opportunity to make their political dreams come true.

Of course, for some, the new political climate has thoroughly chilled; maybe even to the point of an Ice-Age epoch. Rest assured, however, that what freezes also thaws, and two years from now what looked new and shiny in 2010 may very well have lost its luster.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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