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CAMPAIGN 2000

Lieberman Caught in Political Cross-Fire Over Gun Control

September 22, 2000|From the Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Vice presidential candidate Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) has a long record of support for gun control, making him a convincing advocate for a key plank in the Democratic platform.

But when it comes to defending the interests of companies that make pistols, rifles and shotguns in Connecticut's "gun valley," Lieberman has sometimes acted like just another home-state senator defending his region's economic interests.

He has helped keep one controversial gun off Congress' list of banned assault weapons. He voted to repeal a far-reaching District of Columbia law allowing victims of assault weapons violence to sue gun makers. He defended the industry against a Democratic-led effort to prevent gun manufacturers facing liability lawsuits from declaring bankruptcy.

And gun company representatives left a meeting with Lieberman last year convinced that he was on their side in opposing lawsuits by cities seeking to hold manufacturers liable for gun violence. Lieberman's spokesman says that is wrong but that the senator has "some sympathy" for the companies' plight.

Lieberman declined to comment directly.

Lieberman's complex relationship with Connecticut weapons manufacturers is but one aspect of the pro-business record that has set him apart from many in his party.

But with Vice President Al Gore strongly supporting increased pressure on the gun industry to make weapons safer and less accessible to criminals, Lieberman finds himself to some extent caught in the political cross-fire.

Gore has denounced Texas Gov. George W. Bush, his GOP presidential opponent, for signing a law that precludes victims of gun violence from suing the manufacturers.

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