Allentown, Pa. Sen. John Kerry, who likes to present himself as a hunter and gun owner, accused President Bush on Friday of being beholden to the National Rifle Assn. and the gun lobby because he hasn't pressed Congress to extend the 10-year-old assault-weapons ban that expires Monday.
Bush, on a campaign bus tour through West Virginia and Ohio, slammed Kerry again for shifting his position on Iraq and said Saddam Hussein would still be in power if Kerry were president.
Kerry advocates renewing the assault-weapons ban. He chose two states with sizable hunter populations to issue his toughest indictment of Bush yet on the issue. He first made his point in Missouri, a state with nearly half a million hunters, and reiterated it later in Pennsylvania, home to some 1 million hunters.
During the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush said he'd support an extension of the ban. But while he's been effective in pushing his own legislation through the Republican Congress, he hasn't actively encouraged congressional leaders to renew the 1994 law.
"George Bush, who said, 'Oh, I'm for that,' never asked the Congress to pass it, never pushed the Congress to pass it, never stood up, gives in to the NRA, gives in to the special interests, and America's streets will not be as safe because of the choice George Bush has made," Kerry said.
For his part, Bush included the Second Amendment in a laundry list of things that he said he stands for when reciting his otherwise standard stump speech in Huntington, W.Va.
The Bush campaign charged that Kerry's criticism, coming now that polls show him trailing Bush, was a desperate attempt to rally the Democratic base.
Bush also escalated his attacks against Kerry on Iraq. At a rally in Huntington, W.Va., Bush accused Kerry of having more positions in Iraq than all 99 other members of the Senate combined have.
"The newest wrinkle is that Senator Kerry has now decided we are spending too much money in Iraq, even though he criticized us earlier for not spending enough," Bush said.