Gun owners group backs Bush in re-election battle

Cheney criticizes Kerry on stance on weapons

April 18, 2004|By COX NEWS SERVICE

PITTSBURGH - Criticizing John Kerry, Vice President Dick Cheney enlisted a group of gun owners yesterday in the battle to re-elect President Bush.

Chanting "Four more years," about 4,000 members of the National Rifle Association enthusiastically gave their endorsement to Cheney during his keynote address to their national convention.

"Your organization has evaluated Senator Kerry's record on gun rights and given him a grade of `F'," Cheney reminded the crowd.

With 4 million members nationwide and a $200 million annual budget, the NRA has been a reliable ally for Republican presidential candidates in recent decades.

By holding their convention in driving distance of three swing states - Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia - the NRA aimed to energize their followers where every vote will be needed.

More than 60,000 NRA members are attending the meeting, although only 4,000 could be accommodated for Cheney's speech.

Among those in attendance was Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who drew applause when introduced by the vice president. The renegade Democrat has backed Bush while being critical of Kerry's candidacy.

Cheney said that Kerry, the Massachusetts senator and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has promised to stand up to the NRA and "said a number of times that he does not want to be the candidate of the NRA."

In contrast, Bush has staunchly supported the Second Amendment right to bear arms and has opposed restrictions on law-abiding gun owners and gun manufacturers, said Cheney.

"John Kerry's approach to the Second Amendment has been to regulate, regulate and regulate some more," Cheney said.

Anticipating an attack, Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton issued a statement in advance of Cheney's speech.

He accused Bush and Cheney of "standing against major police organizations and breaking their promise to renew the assault weapons ban - which helps keep military-style assault weapons out of the hands of criminals and terrorists." The federal assault weapons ban is set to expire in September.

He said law-abiding NRA members have nothing to fear from the Massachusetts senator, who is a "a lifelong hunter and gun owner."

"John Kerry believes in the Second Amendment right to bear arms," Clanton said.

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