It was a centerpiece of the Democratic convention, but it has become
Al Gore's forgotten issue, an issue he omits wherever he campaigns.
"What issue?" you ask. For those who do not follow the politics of gun
control, it has been easy to miss Al Gore and Joe Lieberman's lack of
public support for their positions in favor of more and more restrictive
gun legislation. For those of us who do, their silence has been
deafening, and the issue was never mentioned during Tuesday's debate.
The avoidance of this issue is not an oversight. Even James
writing in the New York
Times acknowledged the strategy. He wrote, "Privately, Mr. Gore's advisers have long acknowledged that gun control is a potentially double-edged issue. And so they have counseled him to avoid discussing gun control in rural communities and to frame his proposals as crime-fighting or child-safety ideas -- terms more acceptable to gun owners."
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The Gore campaign is deliberately trying to keep the issue off the stove, not even on the back burner. They know that it cuts into the Democratic heartland -- the rank-and-file workers who make up their labor support. In Pennsylvania, a state with a huge population of licensed hunters and a large labor base, labor contracts are known to include the first day of hunting season as a mandatory holiday. In Seattle, Wash., where the Boeing workers belong to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, I know that one of the largest groups that worked tirelessly against I-676 (an initiative to ban handguns) in 1997 was the Boeing local. In Michigan, a state that is home to the United Auto Workers, you can find a hunting rifle in the back of most of their American made pickup trucks every fall.
Because those union members care about their right to keep and bear arms, Al and Joey have eliminated their anti-firearms rhetoric since it was the focus of the first night of the Democratic convention last August. They are very aware that union households are very likely to include NRA members. A fact supported by Zogby International, a non-partisan polling firm from Buffalo, N.Y., which reports that more than 20 percent of union households state that someone in their family is a member of the National Rifle Association. And many of those union members, who do not support the Clinton-Gore-Lieberman policies concerning gun control, keep their mouths shut for fear of job reprisals and only making their voices heard in the voting booth. Privately many union leaders wish that Democratic leaders would drop the gun control issue.
However, it is the liberals the unions most staunchly support -- in the Democratic party, like Kennedy, Feinstein, Boxer, Gephardt, Franks, and Schumer, who promote social issues from affirmative action to gun control, from gays in the military to supporting a failed public education system. And it is their liberal support groups like the National Education Association, NAACP, Handgun Control Inc. and the Million Mom March, who are going all out to promote the gun control agenda.
All are closely aligned in their efforts to help elect the Democratic ticket. On September 5, 2000, the day Congress returned from its summer recess, MMM held a press conference on the lawn of the Capitol. In attendance at that press conference was none other than the Clinton administration's point man for gun control, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo. Joining Cuomo was D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and the president of Handgun Control, Michael Barnes. All spoke in favor of more "sensible" gun laws and especially targeted the sales of firearms at gun shows for more restrictions.
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Later in September MMM held its first convention in Denver, Colo. Although they tried to keep pro-gun folks from attending by charging high conference fees, two women members of
Response Team did manage to attend. These pro-gun women reported that the leadership of the MMM is from the liberal wing of the Democratic party and closely aligned with the Gore-Lieberman ticket. In addition they are extremely well funded with a war chest of well over seven million dollars: a million dollars from the Packard foundation and a staggering five million from the Emma Goldman foundation, and a million dollars from an anonymous donor.
As for HCI, James Dao summed it up best. "For Mr. Gore, the task has fallen mainly to Handgun Control, which is running commercials attacking Mr. Bush in several midwestern cities." HCI has already spent approximately $2.5 million dollars on "issue ads" to demonize George W. Bush's record on gun legislation. The first million was on an ad linking Bush with NRA, and the latest according to the AP is an ad featuring Martin Sheen, the actor who plays the Clintonesque President on the TV drama "West Wing." The ad personalizes the attack on George Bush and his support of right-to-carry legislation in Texas.
If the lobbying groups, such as HCI and MMM, haven't done enough to boost the anti-gun policies of the Gore candidacy, on Tuesday the Los Angeles Times jumped into the fray with a
"news" story on Bush and the issuance of right-to-carry permits in Texas. It appears that it is not enough for newspapers and media outlets to run editorials espousing their political opinions, now they develop stories to support those opinions and buttress their favorite candidate's positions.
Can it be a coincidence that at the same time that HCI buys political advertisements on the Texas law the L.A. Times investigates the issuance of Right to Carry permits in Texas? The authors, William C. Rempel and Richard A. Serrano, obviously were sent to Texas with a substantial budget and lots of time for their research. They were sent to find those people who had received permits but were unqualified, while overlooking any stories of licensed gun owners who had saved their lives and the lives of loved ones as a result of being able to defend themselves.
While acknowledging that over 215,000 Texans have qualified for carry permits, the writers found 15 stories about Texans with carry permits who either should not have been licensed or who criminally misused their guns -- less than one-one hundredth of one percent (.0000697). Yet, even if, as the Times alleges, there were 3,400 licensees who should not have been issued a carry permit, the rate is still a very low percentage: 1.5 percent of all those who received permits. America would be a lot safer if that was the national percentage rate of armed criminals.
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When questioned, Johnny Sutton, criminal justice policy adviser to Bush, told the Times reporters, "There will always be nightmare cases. Somebody will always get through that we wish wouldn't, but not that many slip by. When they do, they are caught and (the licenses) revoked. And if they commit a crime, we prosecute them hard." Former State Sen. Jerry Patterson, the legislator who worked tirelessly to pass the 1995 Texas Right to Carry Law, even tried to interest the reporters in stories about persons defending themselves, but they obviously ignored his data. Leave it to the Times to publish a biased political story to support their gun control agenda.
I predict that other major news media as well as the entertainment industry will follow suit this month. We should expect to see the opening episodes of the major television dramas include anti-gun propaganda. After all, very few Hollywood actors, directors, or producers are supporting George W. Bush.
The issue of gun control has been banished from the center ring. It has been relegated to a sideshow, which is costing Al Gore nothing. The MMM and HCI are spending non-reportable and non-regulated dollars to support him, while the media effort is completely outside the political realm. It all makes the Buddhist Temple fund-raising scandal look like a tea party, and this time there is really no overriding legal authority to stop it.