Candidates zero in on firearm preferences


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Harry Tuttle
September 26, 2004, 05:03 PM
Candidates zero in on firearm preferences

In interviews, Bush, Kerry offer insights on their own gun histories

http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=289099&category=NATIONAL&BCCode=HOME&newsdate=9/26/2004
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By JODI WILGOREN, New York Times
First published: Sunday, September 26, 2004



Sen. John Kerry, a hunter who supported the recently expired assault weapons ban, frequently tells audiences he has never met anyone who wanted to use an AK-47 to shoot a deer. But it is not clear what Kerry does with the Chinese assault rifle he told Outdoor Life magazine he kept in his personal collection.


In interviews appearing in the October issue of Outdoor Life, Kerry and President Bush were asked whether they were gun owners, and, if so, to identify their favorite gun.

Bush named the Weatherby 20-gauge (although he gave a slightly different answer in a separate chat with Field and Stream magazine.) Kerry's answer was more complicated.

"My favorite gun is the M-16 that saved my life and that of my crew in Vietnam," Kerry told the magazine. "I don't own one of those now, but one of my reminders of my service is a Communist Chinese assault rifle."

Kerry's campaign would not say what model rifle Kerry was referring to, where he got it and when, or how many guns he owned. A spokesman for the senator, Michael Meehan, said Kerry was a registered gun owner in Massachusetts. On Thursday morning, Meehan said he had not been able to ask Kerry about the rifle because of Kerry's hoarse voice; he did not respond to further inquiries.

Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association -- which has given Kerry "F" ratings throughout his career and backs Bush's re-election -- said the Outdoor Life comment made Kerry's support of the assault weapons ban disingenuous.

"It's OK for John Kerry to own these kinds of firearms, but it's not OK for John Q. Public?" Arulanandam said, noting that if Kerry brought the gun home from the war as a souvenir he could be subject to court-martial.

Stephen P. Halbrook, a gun rights lawyer who has argued several cases before the Supreme Court, said the most common Chinese assault rifles, known as SKS clones, were not among the 19 models banned under a recently-lapsed 1994 law. But some SKS's have magazines holding more than 10 rounds, which violates a Massachusetts law against large-capacity weapons, Halbrook said. If the gun is fully automatic, Halbrook said, it is illegal in Massachusetts and would require a federal permit if Kerry kept it at one of his homes in Pennsylvania and Idaho.

Bob Ricker, a former NRA lawyer, said he was not worried by Kerry's answer because "he's ... one of the most credible individuals when it comes to ... what it takes to keep weapons of war off the street."

Bush does not have such high-powered weapons but seems unable to pick a consistent favorite. To Field and Stream, he said, "My favorite gun is the first gun that my dad gave me, which is a Winchester .22 pump, Model 61."

He also mentioned the Weatherby he chose for Outdoor Life, saying that it was a "custom-made gun presented to me by the CEO of the company, Mr. Weatherby."

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