A local mother whose son was killed in a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater got the meeting she wanted Monday with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman to discuss his recent vote against tighter gun control.
The two met face to face over coffee at a Springfield restaurant for about 45 minutes Monday morning, said Jerri Jackson, of Springfield Twp., whose son, Matthew McQuinn, was shot nine times last year while shielding his girlfriend in that Aurora, Colo., theater.
McQuinn, a Springfield native, was among 12 killed.
“I told him our story and how this act of violence, the killing of my son, has affected us and how it has changed our lives,” Jackson said.
Speaking later to the News-Sun about an earlier, decade-long ban on assault weapons, “There is no evidence that I’ve been able to find that it made any difference,” he said.
He cited a recent Justice Department report indicating that the majority of people committing crimes with guns get them illegally.
Jackson gave Portman a photo of McQuinn with his girlfriend, St. Paris native Samantha Yowler, who was shot in the leg during the incident but survived.
She said she encouraged the Ohio Republican “to look at my son’s picture and remember us” the next time the issue of gun control comes up on Capitol Hill.
“We’re not just talking about names,” Jackson said. “Let’s put a face with the names.”
Jackson had invited Portman to have dinner with her on May 1 in hopes of persuading the first-term senator that assault weapons don’t belong on the streets.
Portman recently opposed a new ban on the production and sale of assault weapons. He also was among 45 senators last month who blocked an amendment that would have expanded background checks on people trying to buy guns.
“We’re not saying you can’t have a gun,” Jackson said. “You don’t need 100 rounds at one time.”
The dinner offer was declined, but Portman told the Springfield News-Sun on Monday that allegations he was avoiding the distressed mother were “ridiculous.”
“My schedule is such that I don’t get to Springfield every week,” Portman said after speaking at the annual Springfield-Clark County Armed Forces Day luncheon at the Hollenbeck Bayley Convention Center.
Jackson felt he listened, and Portman later acknowledged that, “We agree on a lot. We don’t agree on everything.”
“She’s a great lady,” Portman said afterward. “Her son was a hero. Matt actually put himself over the body of his girlfriend and, I think, saved her life.
“I respect her tremendously, and what she’s going through is very difficult.”
Jackson said Portman told her he took the stance he did on possible gun legislation because it wouldn’t have made a difference.
Portman said he wants to address the underlying causes of gun violence, such as providing mental health and drug treatment for ex-offenders, and getting mental health records into background checks. He also noted the need to combat the glorification of gun violence in society.
“Ultimately,” he said, “there’s no one answer to this.”
Both sides of the gun debate will likely have to wait, though, as Washington now deals with a series of scandals involving the Obama administration.
Portman will get his chance this morning to grill officials under oath from the Internal Revenue Service when they appear before the Senate Finance Committee about why the IRS allegedly targeted conservative groups for scrutiny when applying for tax-exempt status.
“I find it unlikely that a few lower-level (IRS) people in Cincinnati were doing this on their own,” Portman said while taking questions Monday from the luncheon audience.
He said he first heard from groups being targeted by the IRS as far back as March 2012. The IRS responded to an inquiry, he said, by saying “everything’s fine.”
Portman said trust in government is at stake.
“That’s what’s at stake here,” he said, “to be able to help restore some of the trust that’s been lost in government, which is critical for us as a democracy.”