- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 15, 2004

John Kerry is a hunter — ergo he’s a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. At least that’s what he wants voters to believe. And especially with the controversial 10-year-old “assault weapons ban” expiring this week, the Democratic presidential nominee has taken nearly every chance to tell voters that he is the “first Democratic candidate to support Second Amendment gun rights and to be an avid hunter.”

In fact, during Mr. Kerry’s 20-year Senate career, he has voted almost in lock-step with the gun-control lobby. The Brady Campaign, a gun-control advocacy group, gives the senator a 100 percent rating. The National Rifle Association seems to agree — on Mr. Kerry’s anti-gun record, that is. In evaluating the accuracy of Mr. Kerry’s “hunter equals Second Amendment supporter” rhetoric, consider:

• In 1993 and again in 1996, Mr. Kerry voted to eliminate the Civilian Marksmanship Program, a tax-exempt corporation that promotes gun safety and training. The CMP is also involved with the Boy Scouts and the American Legion.

• In 1999 and again in 2004, Mr. Kerry voted to criminalize legal sales between private individuals at gun shows, which cater to avid hunters and sportsmen.

• In March, Mr. Kerry voted to ban most center-fire ammunition, which includes rounds commonly used by hunters.

Judging from Mr. Kerry’s record, it isn’t surprising that he supported the assault- weapons ban that expired Tuesday. But Mr. Kerry still felt the need to find a middle ground — a nuanced position. “Let me be clear,” he said. “I support the Second Amendment. I am a gun owner. I am a hunter.” At the same time, he added, “George Bush chose to make the job of terrorists easier, and the job of police officers harder.” How the ban’s extension would have hindered terrorists’ effort to fly planes into buildings Mr. Kerry didn’t clarify.

Clumsily straddling the Second Amendment divide, Mr. Kerry no doubt knows what every other politician knows about the assault-weapons ban: It was a Clinton-era experiment in gun control that didn’t do a thing to stem gun violence. A National Institute of Justice report found “no discernable reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence” since the ban was passed in 1994. But, to be sure, supporting the ban is hardly a politically risky move. When 70 percent of Americans favor its extension, it’s not as if Mr. Kerry is boldly — pardon the expression — sticking to any moral guns. Yet there was Mr. Kerry at a recent campaign rally holding aloft a “banned” rifle to the cheers of his supporters.

Mr. Kerry plays this game because most Americans don’t vote for politicians based on their gun-control positions. Those that do, however — not an insignificant amount — are against limits on the Second Amendment. Given this, we expect Mr. Kerry to tout his hunting credentials on every stump in the nation.

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