[Mb-civic]   An Expiration Date on Safety    By Howard Dean

Michael Butler michael at michaelbutler.com
Mon Sep 13 19:10:32 PDT 2004

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  An Expiration Date on Safety
  By Howard Dean

  Monday 13 September 2004

  On Monday, Sept.13, the law banning the manufacture of semiautomatic
assault weapons for private sale in the United States expired.

  Before you read further I should tell you that my father was an avid
hunter. I grew up with guns in the house, and although I do not hunt, I own
an over-and-under shotgun. While running for office in Vermont, I won eight
straight elections with the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.
As Governor, I conserved hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat by
partnering with the NRA to fight off the right-wing property rights
advocates who opposed government land acquisition. I believed Vermont's
outdoors should be the way it has been for generations, and now it will be.

  However, I have never met a hunter who thought owning an assault weapon
was necessary to shoot a deer or a bear. I have met a lot of law enforcement
officers who think that the federal assault weapons ban saved a lot of their
colleagues' lives. I have met parents whose kids were killed by assault
weapons years ago and are bracing for more of the same.

  The expiration of the assault weapons ban also showed me something that is
becoming a frequent occurrence with this administration: politics trumps
conviction. The ban expired because Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) refused to let
the ban come to a vote in the House of Representatives. President Bush,
knowing the ban has overwhelming political support among American voters,
said he would support the extension of the ban when he was a candidate for
President in 2000. Like so many of his campaign promises on education,
health care, balanced budgets and foreign policy, there was no truth to this
promise either.

  A few months ago, a White House spokesman said President Bush still
supported the reauthorization of the ban. Since then, the President has done
nothing to support that statement.

  During this election season, President Bush says he is the best person to
keep our country safe and secure. But keeping our country safe and secure
does not just mean keeping terrorists outside our borders. Keeping our
country safe and secure means keeping harmful weapons off our streets and
away from people who will use them to harm others. That means keeping
weapons away from terrorists as well as potential criminals.

  Where I come from, chief executives are supposed to lead. Where I come
from, when the chief says he supports something and his party controls the
House and the Senate, what the chief really wants, he gets.

  I would have more respect for President Bush if he had come out and said

  "I changed my mind, and I'm not supporting the reauthorization of the
assault weapons ban." But, he did not do that. America needs a president

  with the real courage to say what he believes - no matter what the latest
poll numbers show.


  Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, is the founder of Democracy for
America, a grassroots organization that supports socially progressive and
fiscally responsible political candidates. Email Howard Dean at
howarddean at democracyforamerica.com



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