Posted: May 16, 2008 5:19 PM
McCain Urges Closing Gun Show Loophole but Touts Gun Rights in NRA Address
Likely Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain spoke to nearly 60,000 attendees of the National Rifle Association Convention in Louisville, Kent., where he was tasked with appealing to the powerful union and defending past criticisms of the NRA policy.
“For more than two decades, I’ve opposed efforts to ban guns, ban ammunition, ban magazines, and dismiss gun owners as some kind of fringe group unwelcome in ‘modern’ America,” McCain said, according to prepared remarks, after honoring former NRA president and spokesman Charlton Heston. “The Second Amendment isn’t some archaic custom that matters only to rural Americans, who find solace in firearms out of frustration with their economic circumstances.”
A few years ago, McCain joined with Independent Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman in calling for gun safety legislation, specifically advocating background checks at gun shows, which traditionally do not require criminal checks for purchase.
McCain reiterated this stance, saying “I recognize that gun shows are enjoyed by millions of law-abiding Americans. I do not support efforts by those who seek to regulate them out of existence. But I believe an accurate, fair and instant background check at guns shows is a reasonable requirement.”
In 2001, McCain’s work on an initiative called “Americans For Gun Safety,” drew criticism from the NRA, which called him “one of the premier flag carriers for the enemies of the Second Amendment,” in an article that appeared in the organization’s national magazine “America’s First Freedom” in July of that year, the Huffington Post reported.
McCain was even featured in several TV ads emphasizing gun safety.
“We’ve had our disagreements, everybody knows it,” NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said Tuesday, according to the The Associated Press. “I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on those. We’re not foolish enough to ignore the vast areas of agreement in which John McCain has been a friend to gun owners.”
McCain did vote against a ban on assault-type weapons and for shielding gun-makers and dealers from civil suits, the Associated Press reported.
In Friday’s speech, he took the opportunity to distinguish his record on gun rights from that of his Democratic opponents.
“Let’s be clear,” he said. “If either Senator (Hillary) Clinton or Senator (Barack) Obama is elected president, the rights of law-abiding gun owners will be at risk. They have both voted as senators to ban guns or ban ammunition or to allow gun makers to be sued out of existence.”
The Arizona senator took further aim at the Democratic front-runner, saying “when he was running for the State Senate in Illinois, his campaign filled out a questionnaire asking whether he supported legislation to ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns with simple, ‘Yes.’”
LaPierre also criticized Democratic contenders, accusing both candidates of “mouthing pro-Second Amendment words and pandering to gun owners,” the Associated Press reported. “They try to say one thing in the heartland of the country and they vote another way back in Washington. And I just think the public sees through it.”
Although the NRA has not officially made an endorsement, neither Democratic candidate was invited to speak.