Saturday, July 30, 2005
GOP brings guns to bear
Democrats point out that Tim Kaine has never tried to restrict gun owners' rights.
The latest from our Blue Ridge Caucus politics blog
From The Roanoke Times
Kaine, the lieutenant governor, has said repeatedly that he respects the rights of law-abiding gun-owners and has no plans to limit them. But Dels. Bill Carrico of Grayson County, Robert Hurt of Chatham and Chris Saxman of Staunton said Kaine's record as Richmond's mayor from 1998 to 2001 undercuts his campaign pledge. Their criticism underscores the Kilgore campaign's emphasis on gun issues, which Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, effectively neutralized in his 2001 election victory.
Specifically, the GOP lawmakers criticized Kaine for joining Richmond's city council in 1999 in seeking a report on the feasibility of suing gun manufacturers. Several cities nationwide were considering such lawsuits in response to gun-related deaths and rising public safety costs in their jurisdictions. Kaine acknowledged at the time that such a lawsuit would be difficult in Virginia and campaign aides said he ultimately opposed the idea.
But the council's mere consideration of a lawsuit has been enough to raise the hackles of Kilgore and his supporters.
"It would appear that Mr. Kaine is trying to play both sides of the issue," said Hurt, whose district includes parts of Henry County and Martinsville.
The lawmakers raised their concerns in a telephone conference call as the U.S. Senate debated legislation that would shield gun makers from liability for crimes committed with handguns and automatic weapons.
Kaine spokesman Mo Elleithee said Kilgore's campaign is trying to divert attention from issues such as education funding and job creation, which Kaine will discuss today at town-hall style meetings in Buchanan County, Tazewell and Wytheville. Elleithee compared the strategy to the unsuccessful one Republicans used against Warner and Kaine in 2001.
"Four years ago, our opponents said that Mark Warner and Tim Kaine were going to take away your guns because they [Republicans] didn't want to talk about the fiscal health of the commonwealth," Elleithee said. "What we did was balance the budget, invest in education, reform the budget and invest in our law enforcement officers."
And, Elleithee added, neither Democrat sought new gun restrictions.
Kaine has said he would support closing the so-called "gun-show loophole" that enables unlicensed dealers to sell guns without running criminal background checks on buyers.
Kilgore routinely contrasts his "A" rating from the influential National Rifle Association to Kaine's "F" rating. He also has criticized Kaine for authorizing city funds to transport Richmond-area activists to Washington, D.C., in 2000 for the Million Mom March for gun control. Kaine, who reimbursed the city, said he supported the marchers out of sympathy for families of homicide victims.
Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said the Republican nominee will continue to press the issue.
"Tim Kaine would like very much not to talk about the Second Amendment, but I believe he's stuck with it," Murtaugh said.
A statewide poll conducted last week by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research ranked guns near the bottom of a list of issues that voters consider important this year. But Carrico, Hurt and Saxman insisted Friday that the issue could be decisive in rural areas such as those they represent.
"Living out in rural Virginia, this is one of our sacred values," Saxman said.