Ex-official now regrets bowing to National Rifle Association

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Democrat who helped overturn local assault weapons bans as a state lawmaker and before being ousted as Ohio’s attorney general said in a column published Sunday that he “was in the pocket of the National Rifle Association” to protect his political career and now regrets it.

Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Marc Dann used his blunt admission on Cleveland.com to urge elected officials to live by their principles as the country debates gun control following the Florida school shooting Feb. 14 that killed 17 people.

“The NRA’s finely tuned propaganda operation, funded by the manufacturers of assault weapons used in mass shooting after mass shooting, convinced me and hundreds of officeholders and candidates that even talking about gun safety would end their political careers as quickly as a legally acquired AR-15 snuffed out lives last Valentine’s Day,” Dann wrote. “The threat worked.”

Dann said he made “a devil’s bargain” to adopt pro-gun positions that made him uncomfortable in order to stay in office and do the other work he viewed as important.

“The bargain paid off. I was re-elected to the state senate and won an upset victory to become Ohio’s attorney general in large part because the NRA and Buckeye Firearms had ‘educated’ pro-gun voters about my unwavering commitment to the Second Amendment,” he wrote. “I soon learned however, that in making a deal with the devil to advance my political career, I had abandoned my principles and sold my soul.”

NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker called Democrat Marc Dann’s opinion column on Cleveland.com “a desperate attention-seeking ploy by a has-been politician” who’s been out of office for 10 years and left amid scandal.

Dann’s candor comes a decade after he left political office following a sexual harassment scandal involving others at the attorney general’s office. He currently works in private practice.

In the commentary, Dann said he supported legislation as a state senator that overturned assault weapons bans in Cleveland and other cities, joined Republicans to overturn GOP Gov. Bob Taft’s veto of the measure, and then “as Ohio attorney general, I fought Cleveland’s leaders when they sued to overturn the law and reinstate the city’s ban.”