Assault Weapons Ban to be lifted - Shameful
Why are progressives and Democrats so afraid of the NRA? Well, OK, other than the fact that they're arguably the most powerful lobby in the nation, and they have the ability to pass legislation that any rational human would see as ridiculous... why?
The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, passed with broad bipartisan support, and favored in polls by anywhere from 65% to 75% of Americans, is set to expire (as per its own sunset provisions) on Monday. Republican leaders in the House and Senate refuse to bring it up for a vote. President Bush, currently busy lying about his and John Kerry's record in swing states, says he supports the ban and would sign an extension if it was presented to him. Yet he has exerted no pressure on his party to act. In fact, ranking members in the House and Senate have talked brazenly about their blithe indifference to the will of the President and the people:
The House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, dismissed the ban as "a feel-good piece of legislation" and said flatly that it would expire Monday, even if Mr. Bush made an effort to renew it.
"If the president asked me, it would still be no," Mr. DeLay said. "He knows, because we don't have the votes to pass the assault weapons ban. It will expire Monday, and that's that."
Not that the weasel-in-chief is asking Mr. DeLay to do anything about it:
The White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, repeated on Wednesday that ''the president supports the reauthorization of the current law.'' But when asked by reporters what, if anything, Mr. Bush was doing to make that happen, Mr. McClellan replied: "The president doesn't set the Congressional timetable. Congress sets the timetable. And the president's views are very clear.''
Yeah, the President is just powerless, nothing but an innocent bystander in the face of the Congress. This is election-year politics at its absolute worst. Reports have claimed that the NRA is withholding its national endorsement of the President until the assault weapons ban sunsets. And House Democrats in particular are worried that vocal support of the ban will cause an NRA snipe hunt of representatives, like it did in 1994, after the ban was signed into law (many say that led directly to the Republican takeover of Congress, although I'd have to disagree).
Let's not forget that this assault weapons ban has already passed in the Senate, as part of a larger bill, with 52 votes. The Senate has already expressed their support for it; still the President and the House do nothing. John Kerry, for his part, is using this as a wedge issue, and I think effectively. After all, the polls are on his side on this one; while pundits believe Al Gore's support of gun control laws hurt him in states like West Virginia in 2000, this particular piece of gun legislation has broad support:
A poll released this week by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found that 68 percent of Americans - and 32 percent of N.R.A. members - support renewing the ban. The findings, drawn from interviews with 4,959 adults, had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus one percentage point.
Furthermore, Kerry has skillfully tied the issue to a couple other issues perceived as strong for Bush: the "flip-flop" meme (saying Bush supports the ban, but has done nothing about getting it passed), and the War on Terror:
And in a new turn, Kerry drew a link between Bush's stand on the issue and the threat of terrorist strikes.
"These folks are out there talking about the war on terror, trying to scare Americans," Kerry said. Meanwhile, he said, an Al Qaeda manual urges attackers "to come to America and buy assault weapons."
"We should do more than just talk about it, and try to scare people about it, and make it a political issue," he said, referring to terrorism.
This is a winning issue, and Kerry should not be afraid to talk about it. It shows Bush is a tool to special interests, a wimp in the face of political pressure, an incompetent on protecting Americans and keeping our streets free of Uzis. There are more suburban moms than hardcore NRA members, more rational people who understand that a hunter doesn't need an AK-47 than those who do not. Hopefully, a Kerry Administration will continue to show a spine like this in the coming months and years.