September 10, 2004


New ammunition for Kerry: The lapse of the popular assault weapons ban is a timely tool for Kerry. If only he would use it (Philip James, September 10, 2004, The Guardian)

Just as John Kerry's prospects for victory appear to be dimming, along comes an issue that could catapult him back into this race, if only he would seize on it.

The assault weapons ban - the landmark bill signed into law by Bill Clinton that took dangerous automatic weapons off US streets - is set to sunset next week. The Republican-led Congress is going to let it lapse and President Bush - who said he was in favour of the ban in 2000 - has kept silent, in deference to the National Rifle Association, whose endorsement he wants.

This is a made-to-measure opportunity for Kerry to reassert himself around a popular wedge issue. The assault weapons ban is widely credited as one of the reasons violent crime rates took a dive in the 90s and is supported by two thirds of voters.

On September 13th 1994, Bill Clinton signed the Assault Weapons ban, HR4296, into law. Despite the fact that this was an America where our greatest worries at the time were anti-social schoolboys and disgruntled postal workers, out of whose hands it made some sense to keep weapons, just two months later the sixty year dominance of the U.S. Congress by the Democratic Party came to a permanent end.

If John Kerry, who the public little knows and hardly trusts, makes taking weapons from Americans a central issue of his campaign--in an America where we now fear the terrorists in the schoolhouse, not the kids; where we're more afraid of what's in the mail than who's handling it; and where snipers shoot at you while you're pumping gas--the GOP will get to 60 seats in the Senate with even safeish incumbents like Pat Leahy, Russ Feingold, Ron Wyden, Blanche Lincoln, Patty Murray and Byron Dorgan facing an NRA onslaught.

MORE (via Charlie Herzog):
Kerry Tells Bush to 'Get Real' on Assault Weapons (Patricia Wilson, 9/10/04, Reuters)

Kerry, a New England blueblood who served 20 years in the Senate after two decorated tours in the Vietnam War, has tried to appeal to the more conservative voters in important battleground states by presenting himself as a lifelong outdoorsman.

In the past week, he has been photographed trap shooting in Ohio and holding a gun given to him by a supporter at a rally in Racine, West Virginia.

"I mean, heavens to Betsy folks, we've had that law on the books for the last 10 years and there's not a gun owner in America who can stand up and say they tried to take my guns away," Kerry said. "I mean, let's get real. Let's get real."

He told several hundred supporters of his pheasant hunting trip in Iowa earlier this year when he was trailing in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"I am a hunter and I'm a gun owner and I have hunted since I was about a teenager and I respect it ... and I believe in the Second Amendment," he said. "And I'll tell you this, as a hunter, I've never ever thought about going hunting with an AK-47 or an Uzi or anything else. Never."

Bush has said he would sign an extension of the assault weapons ban but he did not press for its renewal by the Congress. The politically powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby has made killing it a top priority, and some lawmakers are fearful of crossing the NRA weeks before congressional elections. Polls show a majority of Americans support renewing the ban.

The NRA has not yet formally endorsed Bush's re-election bid. A Kerry aide said the senator had never been a member of the NRA because he did not agree with its policies.

They have to trust you before you can have it both ways.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 10, 2004 3:33 PM

A couple days ago, the Log Cabin Republicans were mocked on here for deciding not to endorse Bush. They were criticized as being one-issue voters.

Should people who vote on another single issue - gun rights - not be criticized as well?

Posted by: Hunter Ratliff at September 10, 2004 3:39 PM

Guns are a conservative and constitutional issue, sodomy isn't.

Posted by: oj at September 10, 2004 3:47 PM

It's hard to get too excited about a Brit knowing nothing about guns, but the "assault weapons" ban has nothing to do with automatic weapons and no one thinks that it had anything to do with any drop in crime.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 10, 2004 3:51 PM

The assault weapon ban has nothing to do with "automatic weapons". The rifles that are banned on "essentially" no different than any other hunting rifle. Just cosmetic differences.

Posted by: h-man at September 10, 2004 3:51 PM

David, what is it with you and Raoul? You people sure type fast.

Posted by: h-man at September 10, 2004 3:54 PM

I thought Bill Clinton has been quoted as saying that gun control cost Gore the election (e.g. West Virginia).

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 10, 2004 4:08 PM

h: Looks to me like a tie.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 10, 2004 4:42 PM

Huh? What did I do this time? And you can't prove it if I did.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 10, 2004 5:24 PM

Yesterday on a post about "accepting gays" = "gay marriage" you said the same thing I said except a nano-second before I did. Which made me feel like a fool, especially because you probably said it better than I did.

Posted by: h-man at September 10, 2004 8:14 PM

John Kerry would walk around a field with an M-16 or an RPG if he thought it would help him win votes in Red States. Why else release his Vietnam home movies to the media?

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 10, 2004 10:43 PM

It's still odd that even Senator Kerry has no idea what the assault weapon ban actually does. First, he makes the same mistake as the Brit by naming automatic weapons. Second, if the law didn't actually take away any guns, then what's the point? We should support the law because it is completely irrelevant?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 10, 2004 10:55 PM

Yes, have Kerry come out as favoring the assault weapon ban stand. And then watch as OH, PA, WI, MN, TN, etc move decisively toward Bush. And isn't Britain where the police can't carry guns and the crime rate is skyrocketing there?

Posted by: AWW at September 10, 2004 11:22 PM

One can only hope that Kerry will take advice from the solons at the Guardian and bait the gun-owners of America. Kerry's own rhetoric nails him as just another tedious Massachusetts gun-grabber. The point isn't what Americans need but is instead what Americans have the constitutional right to own. I'm a gun owner but not a hunter, does that mean that I should oppose the right of Americans to own deer rifles?

Americans do not need government to tell them what weapons they need for personal protection and sporting use. They are perfectly capable of making their own decisions. Plus, when the government intervenes in areas where most Americans believe it does not belong, Americans can get downright ornery. And Kerry is about to discover this essential truth.

Posted by: Bart at September 11, 2004 7:16 AM

This discussion if Kafka-esque: It makes the universe tilt, it gives you a headache. Nobody seem to have the foggiest notion of what the "so-called" "assault weapons" "ban" actually was, and, what is rather more maddening, no one seems to want to find out.

The AWB prohibited sales of guns made after its effective date which had more than one scary-looking feature, such as a flash supressor, bayonet lug, or free-standing pistol grip. Pre-ban manufactured guns contined to be legal to sell and own, and manufacturers starting making their guns sans bayonet lug and with muzzle brakes instead of flash hiders, as if any but the expert knew the difference between the two.

The effect of this was that no one--absolutely no one--who wanted to legally aquire a semi-automatic M16, M14 or AK clone was prevented from doing so. This fact is conclusively dismissive of any intimation that the "Ban" had any effect of crime. You don't need a bayonet lug to shoot up a post office, and a flash suppressor has almost no utility over a muzzle brake inside a schoolyard. Crime is down for other reasons, demographics and incapacitory incarceration, mostly. Anyone who says the AWB ban reduced crime is a bald-faced, no-sex-with-Monica liar--it could not possibly have done so, because functionally identical weapons continued to be available. This is not a conclusion upon which reasonable men could differ.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 11, 2004 9:42 AM

Do you think they'll let me buy one ofthese now?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at September 12, 2004 2:14 AM

Getting ammo for it might be the hard part.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 12, 2004 4:31 AM