Cheney criticizes
   Kerry's gun stance


  Cheney, center, accepts a rifle from NRA President Kayne Robinson,
  right, and NRA Vice President Wayne R. LaPierre Saturday.

CNN          4/17/04
zzCheneyCriticizesKerry'sGunStance-41704.jpg

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (Reuters) -- Vice President Dick Cheney used a speech to the National Rifle Association Saturday to paint Democrat John Kerry as a firearm industry foe bent on over-regulating gun makers and owners.

Playing to conservative voters, Cheney appeared in the election battlefield state of Pennsylvania to pledge the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign's support for gun ownership. 

"John Kerry's approach to the Second Amendment has been to regulate, regulate and regulate some more" Cheney said in a salvo aimed at the Democratic senator running against President Bush in the November election.

Kerry's campaign fired back by accusing Bush of ignoring a campaign promise to renew a federal ban on assault weapons passed by Congress in l994.

Bush has said he would sign renewal legislation, which is stalled in Congress.  The ban expires in September.

Scrapping the ban is a top priority for the politically powerful gun lobby, but Cheney did not mention it in his speech.

Despite NRA opposition, Kerry supports the ban because it "helps keep military-style assault weapons out of the hands of criminals and terrorists," a spokesman said in a statement.  << CNN bias>>

Kerry, a decorated Vietnam war veteran, offers his former military service and lifelong hunting hobby as proof that he supports gun ownership.  << CNN bias>>

"John Kerry used assault weapons in the military, so he understands that they're not meant for hunting dove or deer," the spokesman said.  << more CNN bias>> 

NRA members believe the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms.  Gun control critics believe the NRA has pushed that right too far and made it too easy for criminals to obtain guns.

"Senator Kerry seems to have his own view of the Second Amendment," Cheney said, urging NRA members to vote for Bush.

The group's annual convention, titled "Freedom's Steel," drew about 60,000 people to rallies and an exhibit hall billed as "four acres of guns and ammo" for an avid display of guns, ammunition and sportswear.

The NRA will not formally endorse a candidate until the fall, but a spokesman criticized Kerry for casting votes against gun ownership in the U.S. Senate.

Kerry wants to "run the American firearms industry into financial ruin," said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam, accusing the Massachusetts senator of seeking to "camouflage" his anti-gun stance by appealing to hunters.

In Pittsburgh, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center's main hall was filled with young couples with babies, long-haired outdoorsmen, camouflage-clad servicemen and hunters.  Most echoed an ethos of "God, guns and freedom."  Many in the Republican-dominated organization expressed strong support for Bush.

"What other choice do I have besides Bush?  Kerry's a waffler," said NRA member Ward Sutton, a Pittsburgh native.