In the Ohio Senate race, Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan portrays himself as a candidate that supports the police and his Republican opponent J.D. Vance as someone who does not.
A Ryan TV ad features uniformed Stark County Sheriff George T. Maier standing in front of a squad car. Maier says that when Vance “calls law enforcement corrupt, it makes me angry, that makes my job harder. So does J.D.’s plan to eliminate an agency that combats violent drug traffickers.”
Then a message on the screen makes this claim: “J.D. Vance wants to defund law enforcement.”
No particular agency is identified, but the ad cites a Vance tweet from Feb. 1. In that tweet, Vance wrote that he would “fight to abolish the ATF.” That’s a reference to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a law enforcement agency within the Justice Department.
In the ad, Maier then makes this comparison:
“Tim Ryan knows defunding the police is ridiculous,” Maier says. “He’s brought back $467 million to put good cops on the street.”
Ryan has served in Congress for nearly 20 years.
Vance, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, wants to get rid of one law enforcement agency, ATF, but he has not campaigned against defunding all law enforcement agencies.
The Senate seat is opening because Republican Rob Portman is not seeking reelection. The Nov. 8 race is rated as “leans” Republican, “likely” Republican and “solid” Republican. The outcome could decide party control of the Senate, which is now split 50-50.
Vance’s calls to abolish ATF
The mission of the ATF is “to protect communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations and illegal use and trafficking of firearms,” among other things, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Vance, an author and venture capitalist, has called several times for getting rid of the agency, including in a February opinion article published by the Cincinnati Enquirer, in tweets and in a campaign ad.
His Feb. 2 tweet included a video clip of himself at a campaign event alleging that the ATF is “spying on lawful gun owners” by keeping a database of gun transactions.
Joe Biden’s ATF is illegally collecting information on the gun transactions of millions of law-abiding citizens & putting them into a digital database.
As Senator, I’ll not only lead the fight against Biden’s unconstitutional gun database, I’ll fight to ABOLISH the ATF. pic.twitter.com/cNY9wQ9OpW
— J.D. Vance (@JDVance1) February 2, 2022
Vance falsely claimed in a February ad that President Joe Biden “uses the ATF to illegally track your gun transactions.” The Government Accountability Office found that ATF is following the law in how it manages gun transaction records.
A joint fundraising committee that raises contributions for Vance’s campaign and for his leadership PAC also ran an ad on Facebook and Instagram calling for the ATF to be abolished.
Vance’s criticism of the FBI
We searched Google and Vance’s Twitter feed for any other statements by Vance directly calling for abolishing or defunding the FBI, but did not find any.
Vance does not list law enforcement or crime generally on the issues section of his campaign website. His campaign did not provide comment for this article.
Calls to “defund the police” emerged soon after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, murdered George Floyd, a Black man, in May 2020 by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes. Some of those proposals seek to eliminate police departments, others want to keep police departments while rerouting some of their funds and responsibilities to other agencies.
We found no record of Vance supporting proposals to defund police departments.
Ryan said Vance “wants to defund law enforcement.”
Vance wants to defund the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a federal law enforcement agency. In January, he retweeted a tweet that said the FBI “needs to be defunded and eliminated.”
Broadly, Vance has not said he wants to defund all law enforcement agencies.
We rate Ryan’s claim Half True.
PolitiFact staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
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