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.

Marc Dann used his blunt admission on 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.”

NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker dismissed Dann’s statements as “a desperate attention-seeking ploy by a has-been politician.”

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

“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.”

The column comes a decade after Dann left political office following a sexual harassment scandal involving others at the attorney general’s office.

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