Whatever happened to gun control? by John Velleco

Whatever happened to gun control?
by John Velleco

Remember when politicians were not
ashamed of supporting gun control?
Many elected officials once proudly
advocated banning certain handguns
because they were “too small” and certain
semi-automatic rifles because they
were “too large.” Groups calling for
total gun bans were taken seriously, and
waiting periods on gun purchases were
in vogue.
Those days, in the words of country
music recording act Montgomery Gentry,
are “Gone like a freight-train, gone
like yesterday.”
The incessant clamoring for gun control
slowly died down to the point that
sitting office holders, and those seeking
elected office from all political parties,
are reluctant to discuss what gun control
they support. Instead, anti-gun
politicians highlight how strongly they
support the Second Amendment.
The gun issue even played an unlikely
role in this year’s Democrat presidential
primary. As absurd as it may be,
Hillary Clinton attacked Sen. Barack
Obama for being a gun grabber, to
which Obama responded that Clinton
was no Annie Oakley.
This stands in stark contrast to the
2000 presidential contest, when Al Gore
and Bill Bradley argued over who could
contrive the more extreme gun control
agenda. Nearly all experts agree that
support for gun control contributed to
Al Gore losing his home state of Tennessee
and traditional Democrat strongholds
like West Virginia in the general
election.
It did not take long to sink in that
gun control is a losing issue. This year,
with 35 Senate seats and all 435 House
seats on the ballot, most congressmen
tread lightly on the gun issue. Many
who have supported gun control for
years have recently cast pro-gun votes
in an effort to hold on to their seats.
In many ways this is good news for
gun owners. Politicians have changed
their voting behavior, disingenuous
though that may be, because of the
influence of pro-gun voters.
The silver lining still clings to its
dark cloud, however, as gun grabbers
have not gone away — they have just
become more elusive.
The latest vote in the U.S. House of
Representatives to repeal the District of
Columbia’s gun ban is a case in point.
Forty-seven congressmen who voted in
favor of the bill are rated “F” by Gun
Owners of America. Included in this
number are three Democrats who are
running statewide for open U.S. Senate
seats (Tom Udall in New Mexico, Mark
Udall in Colorado and Tom Allen in
Maine). Four congressmen who voted
pro-gun also cosponsored a bill to ban
so-called assault weapons.
On the campaign trail, almost no
candidates for Congress admit to being
against gun rights, making the task of
compiling the Gun Owners of America
congressional candidate rating both
more difficult, and more important.
GOA determines grades for candidates
first based on any past voting
record. Then, all candidates receive a
detailed questionnaire. But what about
those with no record and who were not
open enough to return a questionnaire
that would reveal their true colors?
In past elections such candidates
could be assigned grades by simply
going to a campaign website. Learning
what a candidate thought about issues
like banning “assault weapons” and
waiting periods for handgun purchases
was lurking behind a button labeled
“gun control.”
Not any more. For one thing, it’s virtually
impossible to find a link that says
“gun control” on any campaign website.
If a candidate mentions gun rights at all
(and most don’t) it is usually in the context
of “protecting Second Amendment
rights.”
A reader will find comments such as
this one, referring to the recent
Supreme Court decision striking down
the gun ban in the nation’s capital:
I agree with the Supreme Court’s
interpretation last week that an
absolute prohibition against gun
ownership violates the Second
Amendment right for citizens to
bear arms.That may sound good at first blush,
but a careful reading will reveal that this
statement — made by a former mayor
who had considered joining other cities
in suing gun makers out of existence in
1999 — is almost meaningless.
Sometimes a candidate will be a little
more revealing, such as in this comment
posted by an “F” rated candidate: “I am
a gun owner, target-shooter, and support
our 2nd amendment right to bear arms.”
Sounds good so far, but the candidate
goes on to say, “I oppose military-style
assault weapons, ‘Saturday Night Specials,’
and would support reauthorization
of the assault weapons ban.”
Facing this kind of doublespeak, it is
especially important that voters take
advantage of tools like the 2008 Gun
Owners of America voter guide.
The stakes are high in this election, as
they always are. The main focus is on
the tight presidential race. If elected,
Barack Obama would be the most antigun
president this
country has ever seen,
and his vice-presidential
candidate Joe
Biden is just as bad.
John McCain has
been all over the map
on the gun issue, but
he did choose a stellar
pro-gun running mate
in Sarah Palin.
While the White
House may be up for
grabs, liberal Democrats
are in firm control
of both chambers
of Congress. With all
the media attention on
the race at the top of
the ticket, it is important
to remember that
it is in the Congress
where most of the battles
over gun rights
occur.
There are some
pro-gun Democrats in each chamber, but
their numbers are few and they are not
in leadership positions. Ironically,
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid first came
to power because many Democrats were
successful campaigning on a pro-Second
Amendment platform, yet their leadership
ranks among the most anti-gun in
history.
GOA strives to distinguish
between “cover”
votes designed to protect
the anti-gun leadership
and real pro-gun action.
A bill that passes easily
in one chamber with 266
votes does not reveal
much about whether or
not a person will fight in
the trenches for meaningful,
pro-gun reform.
An “A+” has been
awarded to the few members
of Congress who
exhibited leadership by
introducing pro-gun bills
and amendments. Incumbents
who earned an “A”
grade stood with gun
owners both in votes and
in cosponsoring pro-gun
legislation. Grades
descend to “F-,” indicating
anti-gun leadership.
Challenger and open seat candidates
were graded, when possible, on records
in previous elected positions. Others

were graded based on answers to the

GOA questionnaire and by otherresearch and information gathering.
Candidates with an “NR” next to their
name (meaning they refused to respond
to the questionnaire) should be viewed
with a jaundiced eye. They are probablyhiding something. ■

For more information visit www.gunowner.org

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