Dole targets concealed weapons

Republican candidate for president sharpens her contrast with Bush

Backs child-safety locks

May 12, 1999|By Paul West | Paul West,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Stepping up her call for tighter controls on guns, Republican presidential contender Elizabeth Hanford Dole came out last night against allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons.

Her position puts her at odds with Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the early front-runner in the Republican nomination contest. In 1995, Bush signed a measure, backed by the National Rifle Association, that permits Texans to use concealed guns.

In remarks at a dinner honoring female business executives, Dole reiterated her support for mandatory child-safety locks on guns.

This week, Bush took the opposite tack, saying in a nationally televised interview that the use of safety locks should remain voluntary.

Dole, trying to position herself as the moderate alternative in the crowded Republican presidential field, has gone further than her rivals in calling for gun controls.

She was booed at a recent Republican dinner in New Hampshire after she attacked the gun lobby in the aftermath of the school massacre in Littleton, Colo.

Gun enthusiasts play a disproportionately large role in Republican primaries in New Hampshire and other states. But gun control is increasingly favored by many of the voters Dole hopes to attract with her candidacy, particularly suburban women.

Dole has been drawing enthusiastic applause on the campaign trail in recent days when she refers to her highly publicized attack on the gun forces.

"I won't shy away from the tough issues, even if some in my party don't like it," she said last night.

Speaking before the event, sponsored by Working Woman magazine, Dole placed her gun-control comments into the context of crime-fighting and the need to protect police against armed attack.

"I think police work is hard enough already," she said. "No one should make it harder. I think it's wrong to let people carry concealed weapons."

Both Dole and Bush support the federal ban on assault weapons, and both favor outlawing armor-piercing bullets.

Neither Republican supports President Clinton's call for reinstating the three-day waiting period for gun purchases. Both favor instant background checks at the place of sale.

Stops short of federal ban

In adding the concealed-weapons issue to her arsenal of gun-control measures, Dole stopped short of calling for a federal ban. She said the matter should be left to the states to decide.

Dole campaign aides characterized her remarks last night as a direct challenge to Bush. In her speech, however, she made no reference to Bush, either direct or indirect.

Bush's spokeswoman, Karen P. Hughes, declined to respond directly to the Dole camp. Hughes said the Texas governor continues to support his state's concealed-weapons measure, which he signed into law during his first year in office.

Bush ran for office in 1994 pledging to allow "law-abiding citizens to protect themselves," Hughes said. "I regard this as another example of Governor Bush doing in office what he said he would do during the campaign."

Since the Texas law went into effect, according to the Bush aide, women in the state who work at night, such as hospital nurses, have said they felt safer being able to legally carry a concealed weapon. A recent poll in the state showed that an overwhelming majority of Texans favor the concealed-weapons law.

Attitudes vary widely

But attitudes toward concealed weapons vary widely. Recently, voters in Missouri rejected a referendum that would have made the carrying of concealed weapons legal in the Show-Me State.

In Maryland, Gov. Parris N. Glendening backed away from a campaign pledge to require safety locks on handguns, saying he needed time to build support against the gun lobby. Last year, Glendening ran for re-election on a pledge to propose such a measure to the state legislature in 1999.

Dole is running a distant second in the polls to Bush. The Texas governor has been waging a front-porch campaign from Austin but has increasingly been targeted by his rivals.

Bush drew criticism after the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, when he announced his support for instant background checks for purchasers at gun shows. Gun-control advocates pointed out that the governor had done nothing to push a measure that would have done that. The measure was killed earlier this year by a Texas House committee.

Pub Date: 5/12/99

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