CHRIS W. COX, NRA-ILA Executive Director
See where the nine Democrat presidential candidates stand on your right to keep and bear arms.
t the end of last year with the cold of winter descending, the U.S. Senate remained frozen in place. The partisan logjam that prevented the consideration of S. 659 continued through Thanksgiving and into December, and the Senate was unable to pass even the "omnibus" appropriations bill. Congress instead passed a resolution to fund government operations through the end of January 2004, kicking the catchall appropriations bill and all other pending business into next year.
Meanwhile, the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is heating up. Some of the nine candidates are wooing the support of gun owners, so now is a good time to cut through all of the rhetoric to see where the candidates truly stand on Second Amendment issues.
It has become fashionable in recent elections for
Howard Dean proudly claims to have been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, and indeed it is true that the NRA`s Political Victory Fund (PVF) endorsed Dean in his re-election bid for governor of Vermont in 2000. But NRA members know that an endorsement by NRA-PVF in one election is not an endorsement forever. Endorsements are made based on several criteria specific to individual elections, including candidates` statements, voting records and other pertinent information. Dean was endorsed based on his position on issues specific to Vermont that were current at that time.
Looking back to the race for Democratic presidential nominee, let`s see how Dean stacks up on national issues of current concern. Next year in the nation`s capital, we`ll be pushing hard to pass S. 659 through the Senate. We know we`re facing a big battle over the fate of the Clinton gun ban, and we also expect more debate over the future of gun shows and the operations of the National Instant Check System (NICS), among other things.
Here`s what Dean had to say on these issues, in an interview with National Public Radio: "Here`s what my position is and what it would be as president. Keep the assault weapons ban. I favor that and it ought to be renewed. Keep the Brady Bill, close the gun-show loophole, and then let every state decide for themselves what additional gun control they need." A few months later, Dean told the Children`s Defense Fund his opinion of S. 659:
"I would vote no, and I`d veto the bill as president . . . I do not believe we ought to exempt gun dealers, who may be breaking the law, from liability. That doesn`t make any sense whatsoever."
Of course, S. 659 wouldn`t exempt any lawbreaker from liability, but Dean`s ignorance of the bill is no excuse for a reflexively anti-gun answer to a question of pressing national importance. Mr. Dean, you can`t have it both ways when it comes to our firearms freedoms.
Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., has gone to great lengths to seek support from gun owners, staging several photo-ops afield hefting a side-by-side shotgun. But Kerry is also looking to lock up the urban base vote of the Democratic Party by blasting Dean`s past support of gun owners. Kerry has told New Hampshire voters that "I`m a gun owner. I`m a hunter. I`ve hunted since I was a kid." But at a candidate debate in Detroit, Kerry attacked all NRA members when he delivered the following speech: "I don`t think that we can get elected nationally if we are not prepared to stand up against powerful special interests and make it clear that, whether it`s the NRA or any other special interest, we`re prepared to stand for our principles . . . They have changed the face of America. They`re stealing our own democracy."
If that`s not telling enough, consider his voting record in the Senate, where he has never missed an opportunity to cast an anti-gun vote. NRA members will quickly recognize another "F" performance on the part of John Kerry. And even worse, Kerry said in a recent speech, "I don`t want to be the candidate of the NRA." Don`t worry Senator Kerry--you won`t be.
The rest of the field goes downhill from there. Gen. Wesley Clark has told several audiences that if they want to own semi-automatic firearms, they should "join the Army." He has also stated that he opposes the right of law-abiding Americans to carry concealed firearms to protect themselves and their families. Instead of playing politics with our Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Gen. Clark should embrace the Second Amendment and show more sensitivity to the concerns of gun owners across America. Senators John Edwards, D-N.C., and Joe Lieberman D-Conn., along with Congressmen Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., and Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, share voting records that are almost uniformly anti-gun. Former Senator Carol Moseley Braun was a reliable anti-gun vote during her time in the Senate. And Al Sharpton brings up the rear by proudly proclaiming his blanket policy:
"I think we need to do whatever we can to regulate how guns are used." At least he`s honest about it.
It has become fashionable in recent elections for politicians to camouflage their anti-gun views. In the 2002 elections, however, a record number of gun owners turned out to vote for candidates who truly believe in the Second Amendment, and don`t just pay it lip service during their campaigns. With the high stakes of the upcoming elections this November, gun owners will once again see through the political camouflage of anti-gun candidates at the ballot box.