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Kerry Would Threaten Gun Rights, Cheney Tells the NRA

Times Staff Writer

Vice President Dick Cheney, making a pitch for votes from gun owners this November, warned Saturday that Sen. John F. Kerry would pose a threat to the 2nd Amendment guaranteeing the right to keep and bear arms.

“John Kerry’s approach to the 2nd Amendment has been to regulate, regulate and regulate some more,” Cheney told members of the National Rifle Assn., adding that President Bush is the only one of the two candidates who “has shown you respect, earned your vote, and appreciates your support.”

For the record:

12:00 AM, Apr. 23, 2004 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday April 23, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 3 inches; 115 words Type of Material: Correction
NRA convention -- An article in Sunday’s Section A about Vice President Dick Cheney’s speech to members of the National Rifle Assn. incorrectly described the context of a cover photograph on the current edition of the NRA’s monthly magazine. The article said the photo showed Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) giving a thumbs-up and flanked by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) after they helped defeat legislation last month that would have shielded the gun industry from civil lawsuits related to gun violence. In fact, the four senators were photographed after they voted last month in favor of legislation to extend the assault weapons ban for 10 years.

Interrupted by frequent applause and two lengthy standing ovations at an NRA national meeting, Cheney, in full campaign mode, also questioned the presumed Democratic nominee’s policies on taxes, the economy and the military.

But the vice president swung few votes. The audience -- 3,000 conservatives, virtually all white -- was Republican to the core.

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The NRA endorsed George W. Bush in the 2000 election and mobilized its 4 million members against Democrat Al Gore, who, along with President Clinton, was viewed as anti-gun and a threat to the 2nd Amendment.

“If it were not for your active involvement,” Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president’s brother, told last year’s NRA convention in Florida, “it is safe to say that my brother would not have been elected president.”

Political analysts credit the NRA with helping deliver states with high gun ownership, such as West Virginia and Tennessee, to the Republicans. The NRA, with a $180-million budget, spent $16.8 million backing various federal candidates in 2000 and is expected to endorse President Bush’s bid for reelection this year.

“I care about a lot of issues but the one I care about most is guns,” said NRA member Jim Dunmyer of Temperance, Mich.

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“Most of us view Bush a little wishy-washy on the 2nd Amendment, but it’s no contest: John Kerry is a tremendous threat. He may pose as a duck hunter but his record in Congress speaks for itself.”

The cover photograph on the current edition of the NRA’s monthly magazine shows Kerry giving a thumbs-up, flanked by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), after they helped defeat legislation last month that would have shielded the gun industry from civil lawsuits related to gun violence.

“Our members are politically savvy and politically motivated and they get out and vote,” said Andrew Arulandam, NRA director of public affairs.

Kerry, who describes himself as a lifelong hunter and gun owner, says he supports the 2nd Amendment -- as well as “common sense safety measures” such as the ban on assault weapons.

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With Pennsylvania shaping up as a key battleground state, the Massachusetts senator was in Pittsburgh on Friday, the start of the four-day NRA convention, attending a $1,000-a-plate luncheon and talking to University of Pittsburgh students. Coincidentally, he stayed at the same hotel as NRA members but did not attend the convention.

Kerry issued a statement in advance of Cheney’s address.

“We all know Bush and Cheney have broken their promises on Iraq and the economy,” he said, “but most voters don’t know that they are standing against major police organizations and breaking their promise to renew the assault weapons ban -- which helps keep military-style assault weapons out of the hands of criminals and terrorists.”

Bush, who has hosted NRA executive vice president Wayne R. LaPierre at his Texas ranch, will be in Pittsburgh on Monday to raise money for U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). It will be his 27th presidential visit to a state that voted for Gore in 2000.

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Some gun rights activists affiliated with the NRA, the Gun Owners of America and other regional and state organizations have expressed a lack of enthusiasm about Bush’s reelection, primarily because of their concern over the Patriot Act and other homeland security measures instituted after Sept. 11. They cite concerns about privacy and search-and-seizure provisions.

There was little evidence of any Bush detractors at the NRA convention. Many said he was the better option between the two leading candidates.

“I think Bush has done OK on the gun issue, but not so OK on that war in Iraq,” said Earl Peters of London, Ky.

“What I know is that I’m a third-generation gun owner. I’ve got muzzleloaders that belonged to my great-grandfather and I don’t want them to be took by anyone. There’d be a civil war if the government tried to take our guns away.”

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To the dismay of the NRA, Bush has said he favors extending the 1994 ban on 19 types of semiautomatic weapons that expires in September.

Gun-control critics said his words were largely meaningless, at least this year, contending that the extension would never win approval in the Republican-controlled House.

The ban is supported by every major law enforcement agency and, according to one poll, 77% of the public.

The NRA has lobbied hard to get the ban lifted, contending that weapons in responsible hands are not a problem.

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Inside the four-acre center in Pittsburgh, 360 manufacturers displayed the latest firearms and accessories, and members were invited to attend a concert today, “God, Guns & Rock ‘N’ Roll,” by recording artist and NRA board member Ted Nugent.

“Think of the consequences if they took our guns away,” the NRA’s oldest member, Claude Willougby, 98, told an audience of several thousand. “Criminals would keep their guns and law-abiding citizens like you would comply and turn them in.”

And a chorus came back, “Noooooooo.”


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