The main candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination oppose federal licensing of gun owners or registration of handguns, says the Los Angeles Times. Both were favored by Al Gore and Bill Bradley in 2000. The current Democrats pledge to enforce existing gun laws and to back extension of the ban on assault weapons set to expire in September, says Americans for Gun Safety, a centrist Democratic group based in Washington, D.C. Apart from wanting to tighten background checks on people purchasing weapons at gun shows, the leading 2004 contenders have proposed few new limitations on gun owners.
“In 2000, Gore and Bradley vied to see who could go furthest left on guns,” said John Cowan, the gun safety group’s president. “This year’s Democratic candidates are fighting over the 50-yard line.” The Times says that has blurred the difference between the rest of the field and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, argues that Washington should leave most decisions on gun regulation to the states.
The gun issue was a significant dividing line in 2000. About three fifths of voters in households that possessed a gun voted for Bush, while about three fifths in households without guns voted for Gore, said exit polls.
In the survey, Dean and Lieberman said they had not owned firearms; Kerry, Gephardt, and Edwards stressed that they had hunted while growing up. Retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark, who served in the Army for 34 years, wrote, “I probably have more experience with firearms than anyone in the race.”