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Bush keeps low profile on gun ban

House GOP leader says measure will expire

From John King
CNN Washington Bureau

Unlike his push for tax cuts, President Bush has had no recent public comments about an assault weapons ban that the White House says he supports.
Unlike his push for tax cuts, President Bush has had no recent public comments about an assault weapons ban that the White House says he supports.

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Should President Bush take a higher profile on his support for the ban on semiautomatic weapons?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House on Wednesday restated President Bush's support for renewing a ban on Uzis and other semiautomatic weapons, but the president is keeping a low profile on the issue.

The White House gave no indication that Bush is prepared to wage a public campaign for the legislation if House Republican leaders refuse to bring it up for a vote before the ban expires next year.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said Tuesday that there are not enough votes to extend the ban, and he predicted it would expire.(Full story)

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the president's position "is clear."

"The president said in the 2000 campaign that he supported the assault weapons ban because he thought it was reasonable," Fleischer said. "He stated then that he would support the reauthorization of it, and he states that again today."

But Bush's position has been relayed only through remarks by his press secretary and other spokesmen, and through communications between White House aides and congressional committees and interest groups.

The president has not mentioned it in public and has not issued written statements in his name.

That level of support stands in marked contrast to his campaign promoting his tax-cut plan and his frequent statements supporting judicial nominees whose nominations are stalled in the Senate.

Asked if Bush would mount such a public campaign to extend the gun ban, Fleischer would say only that the White House would announce plans if such events or statements were scheduled.

Asked whether the assault weapons ban was a lower priority for Bush, Fleischer said that was not the case.

"No, the president has many priorities, and he judges each one as it comes up," Fleischer said. "Right now he is clearly focused on job creation, given the fact that the important decisions are getting made on Capitol Hill now about the package in the Senate and as it approaches the conference."

Other White House officials said they have not heard of any plans for Bush to provoke a fight with the GOP leadership and the National Rifle Association by publicly campaigning for the ban to be extended.

DeLay's office has said there are no plans to bring to a vote legislation that would extend the ban, which expires in September 2004.

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