by Joseph P. Tartaro
The four-day Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles is only about half over as this issue of Gun Week goes to press on Aug. 16.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT), the vice presidential nominee will speak tonight as this issue is put on the presses. Tomorrow night, Vice President Al Gore will formally accept his partys nomination as the presidential candidate and address the convention and the American people. Thats when the 2000 presidential race will begin in earnest.
All the media hoopla and punditry, the primaries, polls and predictions that have gone before are now largely meaningless. The real campaign will begin after Gores acceptance speech and in a couple of weeksright after Labor Day when most kids are back in schoolthe voting public will take a serious interest in what the candidates say.
The fact that the economy and world situation are relatively stable may force the voters to make their decisions based on bedrock issues. Among these is the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense, community defense and recreation.
Some candidates and organizations, especially within or close to the Democratic Party leadership, have been trying to make the Nov. 7 election a referendum on the Second Amendment. But so far, the gun issue has been largely below the media radar. Even President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, both of whom addressed the convention on Aug. 14, had little to say about guns.
In her address, the first lady, who is running for the US Senate in New York state, made only a passing, non-specific reference to guns.
Ive held the hands of mothers and fathers whove lost their children to gun violence, she said. Its time to honor their pain by passing common sense gun safety laws that keep guns out of the hands of children and criminals.
The President himself was only slightly more specific. After a historical video segment which included footage showing him signing the Brady Act, Clintons speech included only the following passage related to guns:
We are a more secure country because we cut crime with tougher enforcement, more than 100,000 new community police officers, a ban on assault weapons and the Brady law, which has kept guns out of the hands of half a million felons, fugitives and stalkers. Today, crime in America is at a 25-year low, he said.
Even when Clinton talked about what might happen in the future if the Democratic Party were in the majority in Congress with Dick Gephardt as speaker and Tom Daschle as majority leader, he did not mention guns again.
Lieberman and Gore may change all of that in the speeches that are to come. Certainly the issue will come up during the campaign and in the debates.
The party platforms reflect some differences on the gun issue, but the candidates views are more meaningful than the platforms. (See Bush and Gore positions in the Septembr Hindsight.)
Hardly mentioned in the general media, especially in television coverage, are some of the ideological battles on the gun issues going on largely behind the scenes at the Democratic confab.
For instance, both the National Rifle Association and Handgun Control Inc. factions have been playing a role in Los Angeles as they did in Philadelphia.
The NRA ran a full page ad in The Los Angeles Times and USA Today as the convention opened that asked, Do Democrats want to destroy the Second Amendment? The NRA is also running television spots that feature NRA President Charlton Heston urging voters to remember that this election is about freedom.
And the NRA hosted a party for 50 Democrats who have voted against the Clinton-Gore gun agenda in Congress.
Meanwhile, the mayors of the gun-lawsuit cities were running their own anti-gun campaign and had a Wall of Gun Deaths display in the convention hall.
Return to Archive Index