Archive for Saturday, May 19, 2001

NRA opens convention in KC

May 19, 2001

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— Charles and Lois Taft said they were in Kansas City for one reason on Friday to make a statement.

The Tafts, of Mountain View, Ark., believe unequivocally like the 40,000 other participants expected at the National Rifle Assn. annual convention that Americans have the right to bear arms.

That right, as set out in the Second Amendment, is what the NRA and its members said they are celebrating at the convention this weekend. Yet that right is unfairly being challenged by gun-control advocates, they say.

"I was raised with guns, my children were raised with guns and we never had any problems. We used it for hunting or target practice," Lois Taft said. "We were given rights when this country was formed, and politicians don't have the right to take it away."

But despite strong opposition and potential legislative efforts to curb gun ownership, the NRA is well-positioned right now, said James Baker, the organization's chief lobbyist.

Baker said there's always going to be legislation that's potentially unfavorable for law abiding gun owners, but things seem to be headed in a good direction, especially with the election of President Bush.

"We're certainly glad that his orientation is toward an individual's right to keep and bear arms. In the last administration there wasn't a week where they weren't coming up with some restrictions on law abiding people."

Still, Baker said, the NRA is going to have a tough time with legislation in Congress.

The emphasis of new gun laws, Baker said, needs to be on criminals rather than law-abiding people.

Bush's $550 million "Project Safe Neighborhood" plan would involve hiring 113 new assistant U.S. attorneys and 600 state and local prosecutors to work with police and community groups on gun cases.

Plans like Bush's is the kind of effort the government should be taking to prevent gun violence rather than creating new laws that affect law-abiding gun owners, NRA member Travis Sween of La Honda, Calif. said Friday.

"If someone uses a weapon illegally, they need to be prosecuted to the highest extent," he said.

But Sween, 36, said the proposed gun control laws are only a hindrance to Second Amendment rights.

Most gun deaths, however, aren't crime related, says The Violence Policy Center in Washington. According to the organization, 30,000 people in the U.S. were victims of gun deaths in 1998. The NRA needs be called into account for the that violence, said Tom Diaz, senior policy analyst for the center.

"I think the NRA is going to be off on another one of its Lulu-land conventions, completely out of touch with the American mainstream," he said.

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