Washington John Kerry accused President Bush of doing the bidding of the gun lobby by allowing the ban on assault weapons to expire Monday, saying he has put police in danger and Americans in greater jeopardy from terrorists.
"Today George Bush chose to make the job of terrorists easier and the job of police officers harder," Kerry said.
The Democratic presidential hopeful cited an al-Qaida training manual recovered by U.S. forces in Afghanistan that urged followers to buy military-style semi-automatic weapons, including AK-47s, and to learn how to use them.
Kerry said that by not urging Congress to renew the ban, the president had failed "a test of character" in capitulating to the National Rifle Assn.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the Democrat's critique "another false attack from Senator Kerry" and said the White House had worked to enforce existing laws to lower the crime rate.
Although Bush has said he would have supported extension of the ban, McClellan said Monday that Congress didn't send him the legislation. Asked repeatedly by reporters if the president had taken any steps to encourage passage of the bill, McClellan said Bush's position on the issue was well known.
"We're proud to debate the record on combating violence committed with guns, because we have a strong record of strictly enforcing our laws," he said.
Kerry also denounced the White House for proposing cuts to the Community Oriented Policing Services program, known as COPS, which the Massachusetts senator pushed to passage 10 years ago. The program provides grants to state and local agencies to hire police officers.
The Democrat was surrounded by police officers as he spoke at a community center. He used the weapons ban to underscore a larger campaign message that Bush administration policies have favored the wealthy and special interests.