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Knight Ridder Newspapers
Published Sunday, February 27, 2005

WASHINGTON - The national debate over gun rights, for decades among the most searing and divisive of political issues, appears to be all but over in
Congress.

That means that the assault weapons ban, a signature achievement of gun
control advocates that expired last year, probably will not resurface
anytime soon.

Conversely, congressional leaders and the Bush administration haven't put a
priority on efforts to expand gun rights.

"There's a perception that Washington is not the place to take the debate at
this moment," said Saul Cornell, a historian who is director of the Second
Amendment Research Center at Ohio State University. He said that politicians
on both sides see little advantage in pressing the issue.

Democrats, desperate to regain their appeal to middle America, are moving
away from the party's long identification with gun control, much to the
relief of many beleaguered Democrats in states such as Missouri.

"It's a loser," Rep. Ike Skelton, a Missouri Democrat, said of gun control.

Republicans, on the other hand, have become wary of boasting about their
long and profitable alliance with the National Rifle Association, the
nation's leading gun rights group.

In the 2004 election cycle, the NRA's political action committee spent more
than $12 million, mostly to aid Republicans. That included $1.2 million
backing President George W. Bush and more than $1.5 million in efforts
against Democratic nominee John Kerry.

Yet during the campaign, Bush joined Kerry in supporting an extension of the
assault weapons ban and closing the so-called gun show loophole, which
allows buyers to avoid background checks by making purchases from private
sellers at gun shows. Both were popular among many swing voters.

"There is a potential for backlash," George Connor, a political scientist at
Southwest Missouri State University, said of the Republican two-step. "They
can't go too far."

Connor pointed out that Republicans basically have already "gotten
everything they wanted. They wanted to protect the rights of gun owners and average citizens, which they've done. ... I don't think they're going to
push any farther than they already have."

While Bush and many Republicans voice support for a bill that would give gun
makers immunity from civil lawsuits, the bill is not a priority of
Republican congressional leaders.

It's the Democrats who are moving further and faster from their previous
position on guns. It's a notable change from 1994, when the assault weapons
ban passed with backing from President Bill Clinton and a Democratic
Congress.

That coincided with the beginning of a big decline in Democratic support in
rural areas. The year the ban passed, Democrats lost control of the House of
Representatives for the first time in 40 years.

Now Democrats want to reconnect with those voters.

Two new Democratic leaders, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, are examples of the party's current direction.

Reid received $4,500 from the NRA in his 2004 re-election campaign and voted
last year against extending the assault weapons ban. Dean was endorsed by
the NRA in his races for governor of Vermont and said during his
presidential campaign that the issue should generally be left to the states.

A third national Democratic leader, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of
California, has long been a gun control advocate. But she also founded the
House Rural Working Group in an effort to reinvigorate Democratic support in
rural America. Skelton, one of the group's members, said their message to
Pelosi included: Ease up on guns.

Skelton, a pro-gun Democrat who has represented a largely rural district
since 1976 and received $2,000 from the NRA for his 2004 campaign, said
Democratic leadership's recognition of the importance of guns in small-town
and rural America was "much belated."

"Many in the Democratic leadership know that small-town and rural America is
very pro-gun," Skelton said.

"It's part of our rural society, and people have to respect that. I think
Democratic leadership is understanding that and reflecting that obligation
to respect rural values."

Skelton called Dean's stance on guns "very helpful" as the party attempts to
woo disaffected rural voters.

Eric Howard, a spokesman for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence,
conceded times were grim for gun control advocates.

"It doesn't help at this point," Howard said of Reid's and Dean's positions
on guns. "We do much better if more people are talking about this issue. I
believe the gun lobby prefers to close off debate."

John Lacey, a spokesman for Americans for Gun Safety, which sells itself as
a moderating force in the gun debate, said the debate appears to be evolving
from the extremes that once distinguished both political parties.

"You'll see an evolution where people say, 'How do we keep guns out of the
hands of criminals?' " Lacey said. "Gun laws shouldn't make it egregiously
harder for law-abiding Americans to buy guns."

The NRA isn't taking any victory laps, vowing to keep an eye on Democrats to
ensure "their record matches their rhetoric," said Andrew Arulanandam, an
NRA spokesman.

"Anyone who claims the Second Amendment is now officially immune from attack because more folks in D.C. are getting politically savvy is off the mark in their political assessment," he said. "We've seen the Democrats suffer as a
result of their support for gun control. But we've also seen the gun control
movement evolve."

Now, the fight is more likely to be in courts and at the local level than in
the halls of Congress, Arulanandam said.
 

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Thanks for the post, Bumper.

A couple of observations: The gun-banners like the Brady Bunch know now that their nefarious schemes aren't going anywhere at the Federal level, so they're targeting State Legislatures, pushing for assault weapon bans and gun show bans. This is where we really have to maintain our vigilance & stay informed. If one or two States pass an AWB, that could have a snowball effect (the s**t flows downhill principle). Just because a person lives in a gun friendly State (I'll use Montana as an example) doesn't mean he shouldn't be worried if Washington bans all self-loading firearms.

Regardless of the latest official opinion by the Justice Dep't on the 2nd Amendment, we won't be truly safe until the U.S. Supreme Court officially decrees that the 2nd Amendment is an individual right. Then, and only then, will I breathe a sigh of relief.

And no matter what they say, I still don't trust the Democrats.
 

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This makes me smile, but the darkest day is always the one right after sunshine.

It means we're making a difference, but I plead with everyone not to get complacent. Get and stay active in your state laws regarding guns and concealed carry; if you already contact your legislators on a regular basis regarding 2A, continue to do so. If you don't, now's a good time to start and make sure the sun continues to shine on the constitution.

No matter what we cannot rest on our laurels. We as gunowners have come too far to lose everything that's been won back in the last few years.
 
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I agree, psyopspec, I think it is a trap to get us to let our guard down. I have been hearing a lot more about proposals in the states.
 

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Ditto on the stay alert and prepared...I won't breathe easy til I start seeing advertisements for Gun Shows.....on Television !!
 

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Gun control

You folks have it right. You cannot trust a politician. You have to watch them constantly, and slap them down when they err. Like one of the old philosophers said, "Giving Congress your money and your trust is like giving teen age boys whiskey and the keys to the family car." Feinstein, Boxer, Schumer, Clinton, and the rest are like coyotes trying to get your chickens. If they can't get in the door they'll go around the back or dig under. And I don't mean to disrespect coyotes by using this comparison. we may have won a small victory but they will keep trying. It's not about public safety, it's about rendering the populace defenseless, and if you think George Bush is your friend just because he tossed us a bone or two, take a look at the wide open borders, amnesty for illegal, criminal, aliens, and social security for these same criminals. Republicans and Democrats both are only interested in money and power for themselves and the party.
 
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