Is the Kerry Masquerade Working with Gunowners?
September 10, 2004
by Joseph P. Tartaro
Weve discussed the masquerade that Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards have been engaged in for their run to gain control of the White House in these pages many times. In fact, we have frequently reported on the overall strategy of many Democrats to fool the public about their stand on the right to keep and bear arms.
It has gotten so bad that people like Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton (both D-NY) frequently tell reporters and constituents that they support the Second Amendment.
Kerry and Edwards say the same thing. So does the Democratic Party Platform this year.
But they mean they support their view of the Second Amendmenta collective right not an individual right. I dont think that you can get any of these politicians to say they support the right of every law-abiding citizen of the United States to keep and bear arms of their own choosing for every imaginable lawful purpose.
Gun rights publications and organizations arent the only ones that have noted that a masquerade is in progress. But what is especially noteworthy is that an anti-gun newspaper such as The Washington Post would come close to pulling the mask off this bunch.
Heres what an Aug. 9 column in The Post by Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, headlined In Swing States, Kerry Reaches for the Gun Votes, had to say:
Every time you turn around, Sen. John F. Kerry is shooting something. Not with a camera. With a gun.
At the Gunslick Trap Club in Wisconsin last month, the Massachusetts Democrat blew away 17 of 25 clay targets. On a recent flier put out by the Laborers International Union, hes depicted as a lifelong hunter. And in one of his own campaign commercials, hes pictured toting a shotgun.
Why so much macho? The answer is simple: The powerful National Rifle Association is determined to put a bullet in the heart of his presidential bid. The only way the Democrat can match its firepower is to fight back early and often.
It wont be easy. When it comes to elections, the NRA tends to get its way. Its widely credited with winning enough swing votes in key states to defeat Al Gore four years ago. And this year it plans to mount a relentless campaign against Kerry. Were going to be very active, promises Wayne LaPierre, the gun lobbys longtime executive vice president. LaPierre says the NRA will spend $20 million this year, roughly the same amount it laid out in 2000 on behalf of George W. Bush and his allies. But this time, the money will be more targeted and will also be supplemented by a vastly expanded network of volunteer activists. Over the past two years, the NRA has recruited its most energetic members and directed them to organize voters in more than 400 congressional districts nationwide.
Those election victory coordinators have been preparing voting drives for months. Through telephone, e-mail and door-to-door canvassing, the coordinators have identified thousands of fellow NRA members and other sympathizers. And to each of them theyve relentlessly depicted the Democratic nominee as what LaPierre calls a Second Amendment phony.
Despite what Kerrys commercials imply, LaPierre says, the Democrat doesnt support the Constitutions Second Amendment right to bear arms. For two decades, LaPierre says, Kerry has voted consistently for gun-control legislation and against the gun lobby.
The NRA is making that case to the general public as wellin newspaper, radio and television ads. The organization has prepared a 30-minute commercial, for airing in September, in which people from Kerrys home state of Massachusetts call him an elitist rich guy who may hunt occasionally but doesnt back gun-owners rights. And in a NRA commercial thats already being broadcast in tossup states, LaPierre puts it this way: Senator Kerry, how can you talk out of both sides of your mouth and keep a straight face?
Thats harsh, The Post commented, but so is the NRA. It has a well-deserved reputation for blasting its opponents and for stirring up its 4 million members enough to motivate them to vote. In an election thats expected to be close, such passionand such numberscould make a big difference.
Gunowners make up a disproportionate share of the electorate in many of the states that are most contested, including Tennessee, Arkansas, West Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Iowa. There are hundreds of thousands of gun owners and hunters in those states and the gun issue is worth several percentage points on Election Day, LaPierre says.
Democrats agree. In certain swing states the NRA is important, says Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
The last presidential election offers ample proof of the claim. In 2000, the NRAs aggressive electioneering probably cost Gore several rural states, any one of which could have sent him to the White House instead of retirement. At least thats what former president Bill Clinton told PBSs Charlie Rose in June. The NRA had enough votes in New Hampshire, in Arkansas, maybe in Tennessee and Missouri to beat us, Clinton said. And they whipped us in a few other places.
The memory of those losses has made Democrats super-cautious on the gun issue this year. Their presidential platform espouses support for the Second Amendment but is otherwise unspecific. And despite the many pictures of him shooting a gun, Kerry rarely says a word on the topic. In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Kerry said nothing about guns.
Such studied silence on the details of the issue is an obvious strategy. Democrats have seen the wrath of the NRA in action and want to keep it in check. At a Harvard University seminar after the 2000 election, Steve Rosenthal, a former political director of the AFL-CIO now running independent organizations that are trying to oust Bush, said the best course for Democrats on the gun issue would be to shut the hell up.
So far this year, that approach has worked pretty well. NRA polling indicates that Kerrys many gun-carrying photo-ops have persuaded 42% of gunowners in the states that Bush won in 2000 that President Kerry would push for less gun control.
Thats fine with Kerry aides who say the senator in fact is a strong supporter of the right to bear arms and, as a gun owner, has no interest in trying to take peoples guns away. But to the NRA so general a statement is a deception that borders on blasphemy. Kerry has tried to fog the issue, LaPierre says. Our task is to clear up the atmosphere.
The NRA hopes that LaPierres outrage is shared by the organizations rank and file. The lobby has several direct-mail appeals in circulation at the moment that ask for money to correct Kerrys record on gun control. A lot of money will be coming in the next two months, and whatever people send well spend on this campaign, LaPierre says.
The strength of the NRA is that we are therewe never go away, he says. And that will certainly be true this year. Kerry would be well advised to keep firing back, The Post concluded.
One of the scariest facts Gun Week has confirmed is that 42% of gunowners are being fooled by the masquerade so far.
The facts are needed. One of the places those facts will be available is the 19th annual Gun Rights Policy Conference at the Crystal City Marriott in Arlington, VA, Sept. 24-26. LaPierre will be one of the speakers. So will Doug Painter, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, SAFs Alan Gottlieb, GOAs Larry Pratt, the Firearms Coalitions Neal Knox, and a host of other speakers who can help pull the curtain from Massachusetts Wizard of Oz.