- The Washington Times - Friday, May 21, 2004


John Kerry owns a shotgun and a rifle, has taken time from the campaign trail to go hunting and relied on firearms during the Vietnam War. But the Democratic presidential candidate’s fondness for his guns will not save him from a political assault by the National Rifle Association.

The 4 million-strong NRA could be an obstacle in Mr. Kerry’s bid for the presidency, not simply because of the size of its membership but because of the significance of the states where those people live. About one-fourth of NRA members live in West Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania — all battleground states with 101 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

The NRA says it doesn’t matter how many guns the Massachusetts senator owns or how often he hunts because he nearly always votes against gun rights in the Senate. Mr. Kerry supports extending the ban on assault-type weapons and requiring background checks at gun shows. He opposes granting gun makers immunity from civil lawsuits.

“His antifirearms record is among the very worst in American politics,” said NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. “It’s not a stretch to say that the worst thing that could happen to the Second Amendment is for John Kerry to be elected president.”

Mr. Kerry called that claim “the phoniest argument I’ve ever heard in my life.” He said he has been hunting since he was 12 and invited Mr. LaPierre to come along and see for himself.

“If he wants to come hunting with me one day, as long as he agreed not to turn the gun on me, I’d be happy to,” Mr. Kerry said in an interview this week with reporters and editors from the Associated Press.

It’s unlikely Mr. Kerry and Mr. LaPierre will become hunting buddies anytime soon.

In the May edition of “America’s 1st Freedom,” the magazine for NRA members, Mr. LaPierre wrote a lengthy article criticizing the Democrat.

The cover photo shows Mr. Kerry giving a thumbs-up, standing with fellow Senate Democrats Charles E. Schumer of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts after they passed a 10-year ban on assault weapons. The cover reads, “John Kerry to Gun Owners: STICK IT!” and notes that Mr. Kerry’s vote on the gun bill was one of only a few he’s cast during the campaign this year.

The article portrays Mr. Kerry as a rich man who doesn’t care about regular hunters and gun owners, but was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and has an heiress wife who gives to charities that support gun control.

All this comes before the NRA has even endorsed President Bush and begun its most intensive election-year campaigning. The organization backed Mr. Bush in 2000 and reports spending more than $12 million to help him defeat Democrat Al Gore.

In that election, roughly half of voters were from gun-owner households, and they voted for Mr. Bush by 61 percent to 36 percent, according to exit polls. The voters from non-gun-owner households, voted for Mr. Gore, 58-to-39.

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