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 TIME on politics TIME CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and TIME

Gun control advocates take aim at Bush

By KEVIN LANDRIGAN/Telegraph Staff

October 20, 1999
Web posted at: 1:05 p.m. EDT (1705 GMT)

www.nhprimary.com

(CONCORD (The Telegraph of Nashua, October 20) -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush has done "more to promote than to prevent" gun violence in his home state, gun control advocates charged Tuesday.

Speakers at a New Hampshire Democratic Business Network news conference accused the Republican front-runner of embracing modest gun control measures as a presidential candidate but opposing or doing nothing to advance them in three years as governor.

"Governor Bush has done more to promote gun violence in Texas than to prevent gun violence in Texas," said Nina Butts, a lobbyist for the Austin-based Texans Against Gun Violence.

"Bush is all hat and no cap. He talks a good line when it comes to guns. He has done absolutely nothing through three sessions of the Texas Legislature."

But Andrew Malcolm, Bush's deputy campaign press secretary, said Bush has a strong anti-crime record, including cracking down on gun violence.

"Under Governor Bush's leadership, both juvenile and adult crime has decreased dramatically in Texas. Governor Bush has worked on a bipartisan basis to enact some of the toughest, anti-crime laws in the nation, including: automatic jail time for juveniles illegally possessing a firearm; increased penalties for selling guns to minors; weapons-free school zones, and criminal penalties for parents who knowingly and recklessly leave a weapon accessible to a minor who subsequently commits a crime or causes serious harm," Malcolm said.

Jon Bresler, owner of Suncook Trim Corp., hosted the anti-Bush event. He is a supporter of Democratic Vice President Al Gore.

The litany of shootings across the United States has resulted in more people who support gun ownership also favoring restrictions since former Democratic U.S. Rep. Dick Swett's vote to ban assault weapons helped cost his re-election, Bresler said.

"We feel the tide has changed since 1994 when Dick Swett touched the third rail," he said.

Bush came into office in 1995 and made good on his promise to sign a bill making Texas join 29 other states that allowed concealed permits to carry a handgun.

His Democratic predecessor, Ann Richards, had vetoed the same bill.

Critics also fault Bush for signing legislation giving gun makers in his state immunity from getting sued by any community.

"Violent crime is down in states without these concealed weapon laws more than double compared to those like Texas that allow concealed permits," said John Rosenthal, chairman of the Boston-based Stop Handgun Violence Inc..

"What you have seen with Governor Bush is as bad a record as one exists."

On the campaign trail, Bush also said he supports closing a loophole and allowing background checks for those who buy weapons at gun shows, banning juveniles from possessing handguns and doing away with gun clips that contain more than 10 bullets.

But Butts said Bush has never publicly sought any of these reforms in Texas, which has more gun shows than any state in the country.

A day after the tragic shooting and teen deaths at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., Bush came out in favor of closing the gun show loophole.

Yet a day earlier, a Texas House committee had recommended killing the same bill, and Bush aides only offered reasons why that result could not be overturned, Butts alleged.

According to published reports at the time, supporters and opponents of the idea agreed Bush never got involved in the gun show issue before the Columbine tragedy.

"Bush has abandoned the people of Texas on this issue and bowed down, time and again, to the gun lobby," Butts said.

Only one of eight Republican presidential candidates former American Red Cross President Elizabeth Dole has tried to make her support for gun control an issue in the 2000 race.

On the Democratic side, both Gore and former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey favor gun control measures. Bradley also has come out for national registration of all handguns.


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