NRA: DeWine and Voinovich ''out of touch'' with Ohioans

August 30, 2004

Sunset of Assault Weapons Ban May Fire Up Gun Debate

( - The war in Iraq and the economy may dominate the fall presidential campaign, but with the federal assault weapons ban set to expire in two weeks, the gun debate is sure to intensify.

Peter Hamm, communications director for the Brady Campaign to Stop Gun Violence, said it was "premature" to predict the level of importance the gun issue would play in this year's presidential and national elections.

However, if the assault weapons ban, which took effect in 1994, is left to expire, Hamm promised that the Brady Campaign would try to make elected officials who allowed it to sunset "feel as much pain" as possible at the voting booths.

"The NRA, President Bush, and the leaders of Congress are making a serious political mistake if they let that ban expire," Hamm said. The American people "overwhelmingly" support renewal of the ban, he added.

Supporters of the ban say child and teen deaths from firearms have dropped 50 percent since the law went into effect ten years ago. The overall number of gun deaths, they claim, has dropped nearly 25 percent. But opponents have always argued that other gun laws are sufficient to prosecute criminals who use guns in the commission of their crimes and that across-the-board bans unfairly target law abiding Americans.

Kelly Hobbs, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, said Americans have concluded that the ban is "ineffective."

"The majority of Americans do not support its extension, and that's why it will most likely expire on September 13th," he said.

Hamm said that while John Kerry has not spoken out enough in favor of gun control policies, he noted that Kerry came off the campaign trail and voted to renew the assault weapons ban in the Senate on March 2.

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The Senate decided, by a vote of 52-47, to extend the ban, however, the House version of the legislation has languished.

Hobbs agreed that the issue was important, but said Kerry has "camouflaged" his "20-year voting record against gun owners" after witnessing how Al Gore damaged his own presidential hopes in several key states in 2000 by supporting the gun control agenda.

"The gun issue is still an important issue to America's gun owners. That's why John Kerry has been running scared from his Second Amendment votes during the campaign," Hobbs said.

More than three dozen state legislatures now permit the concealed carry of firearms, but Hamm said that is because in certain regions "the NRA has state legislatures in their pockets." He added that the assault weapons ban and gun control are "too popular" for Kerry and Bush to avoid discussing them on the campaign trail.

Hamm pointed to Republican politicians supporting gun control, like Senators Mike DeWine and George Voinovich of Ohio who voted to extend the assault weapons ban. New York Gov. George Pataki, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and most of the speaking lineup at the Republican National Convention also support "reasonable gun safety," according to Hamm. When conservative Alan Keyes, a Republican candidate for Senate from Illinois, suggested that machine guns should be legal with proper gun training, he got "pilloried," Hamm said.

But DeWine, Voinovich and other government officials who support gun control policies are largely "out of touch with their constituents," said Hobbs, who urged voters to send "representatives to Washington who will protect our Constitution, instead of those who support legislation to unravel it.""

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