ban expiring in silence
James G. Lakely
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
1994 ban on assault weapons expires next year and with its
renewal hardly guaranteed, gun-control advocates plan to
keep the pressure on Congress.
so far, none of the Democratic Party's presidential candidates
has made gun-control a major thrust of the campaign, further
dimming the prospects of passage of a tougher ban.
Miller, executive director of Ceasefire PA and Ceasefire
New Jersey, recognizes that other issues, such as foreign
policy and the economy, are unlikely to relinquish center
not surprised to see politicians talk about other things,"
Mr. Miller said. "Our job is to bring it to the public,
bring it to the politicians and get them to talk about it."
John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and presidential aspirant,
was among the first to do so, dedicating part of his official
candidacy-announcement speech Tuesday to gun control.
means standing up for gun safety, not retreating from the
issue out of political fear or trying to have it both ways,"
Mr. Kerry said. The statement was perceived as a swipe at
Democratic front-runner Howard Dean, who procured the endorsement
of the National Rifle Association when governor of Vermont.
spokesman Eric Schmeltzer said the candidate supports many
federal gun laws on the books, but believes "the people
of each state should be able to decide how much gun control
they want in their states."
Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun
Violence, pegs Mr. Dean as "probably a little more
conservative on this than many other candidates." "Actually,
we thought there'd be a bigger split among the candidates,"
the Democratic candidates support the ban on assault weapons
and all oppose a bill pending in Congress that would protect
gun manufacturers from being sued if their products are
used in crimes. But a split among the candidates exists.
a survey issued by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Mr.
Dean was the only one of the major candidates to suggest
that state and local governments are better suited to write
and enforce gun-control laws. The group advocates strict
federal gun control.
litmus test for a candidate's gun-control bona fides is
support for two bills languishing in Congress that would
greatly toughen the 1994 assault-weapons ban. The law banned
only nine specific weapons, and since then firearms manufacturers
have modified those models to offer customers weapons that
operate in the exact same way.
the major candidates for president, only Mr. Kerry and Rep.
Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, expressed specific
support for the tougher law in the Coalition to Stop Gun
Violence voters survey.
Kerry has a strong voting record. He has always been a good
friend to this issue," Mr. Horwitz said. "If you
compare that to Howard Dean, John Kerry's answers are strong.
There's less hedging."
Mr. Miller said he is angry that renewing the assault-weapons
ban is getting so little traction in Congress. "I am
morally outraged that we have to convince elected officials
that renewing the assault-weapons ban is a good idea,"
Mr. Miller said.
Formuzis, spokesman for Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey
Democrat, and sponsor of one of the bills that would tighten
the assault-weapons ban, said gun control is unlikely to
become a big campaign issue. "It's an issue, unfortunately,
that hasn't had a lot of attention in the last year or two,"
Mr. Formuzis said. "If it can't come up for a debate
on the floor, it's very difficult to get the attention of
the American people.