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Statement by Senator John Kerry on Gun Safety Legislation

Location: Unknown

March 02, 2004

For Immediate Release

"Mr. President, the issue before us today can be summed up in one word: responsibility.

"I first started hunting with my cousins when I was young and I still enjoy hunting today. I believe strongly in the Second Amendment and I believe in the right to bear arms. But I also believe that with our rights as Americans come responsibilities.

"The right to bear arms is a right that should be protected for law-abiding Americans who want to protect themselves and their families. There is, however, no right to place military-style assault weapons into the hands of the terrorists and criminals who wish to cause those families harm. But if we do not act today to continue the ban on these deadly weapons, that is exactly what will happen.

"For ten years, the assault weapons ban has stopped fugitives and rapists and murderers from purchasing weapons like AK-47s. And for ten years, not one honest, responsible American has had their guns taken away because of this law. That's why gun owners across America support renewing the assault weapons ban. And why they support closing the gun show loophole so that gun shows can continue uninterrupted without being magnets for criminals trying to get around the law and without serving as ways for terrorists to purchase guns within our borders.

"And gun manufacturers have a responsibility too. I'm not for gun manufacturers being held liable for every crime that occurs. But when they knowingly engage in transactions with dangerous dealers in order to make a fast buck at the expense of public safety - that is wrong. One point two percent of licensed gun dealers supply 57 percent of firearms recovered from criminals. And those who supply them should be held accountable.

"So let's be honest about what we're facing here. The opposition to these common-sense gun safety laws is being driven by the NRA's special interest leadership and lobbyists here in Washington. This is not the voice of gun owners across America.

"Gun owners in America want us to defend their families - not defend the indefensible.

"When he ran for president in 2000, President Bush promised the American people that he would work to renew the assault weapons ban. But now, under pressure from the NRA, he's walking away from his commitment - as he has on so many other promises from education to the environment to the economy. This President says he'll sign this giveaway to the gun industry, but is refusing to sign the assault weapons ban he told America he'd support.

"Mr. President, gun owners have a responsibility - and so does the President of the United States. A responsibility to keep his word. A responsibility to do what he says he'll do. A responsibility to protect Americans from danger and provide for the common defense.

"There's a reason every major police and law enforcement group in America supports this ban. They know no police officer should ever have to face the prospect of being outgunned by a military-style assault weapons. And that no American citizen should have to live in fear of being gunned down by snipers, gang members, or even terrorists wielding AK-47s. And President Bush needs to tell America's police officers why he's not standing on their side.

"Today, George Bush is celebrating the anniversary of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. I'm glad President Bush joined us in that effort. But it will take more than big new bureaucracy to make America safer. Today, airport screeners are getting cut and air marshals aren't getting trained. Fire departments only have enough radios for half their firefighters and almost two-thirds of firehouses are short-staffed. And the COPS funds have been eliminated in order to fund President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest few.

"By taking cops off our streets with one hand and allowing military-style assault weapons back on them with the other, this President is jeopardizing the safety of our communities. And it's wrong to do so to pay for more tax breaks for billionaires and pay back more favors to powerful interests in this election year.

"I believe that American gun owners are right to act responsibly and live by common sense. And I'm proud to stand with them today. I hope that President Bush reverses course and joins the millions of Americans who know gun rights and gun responsibilities are mainstream American values."

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