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THE RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Kerry Chides Bush for Choosing to Let Assault Weapons Ban Lapse

The president makes the 'job of terrorists easier' by letting law expire, Democrat says.

September 14, 2004|Michael Finnegan | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Hours after the federal assault weapons ban expired, Sen. John F. Kerry said Monday that President Bush "chose to make the job of terrorists easier" by letting the law lapse.

Kerry, portrayed for months by Bush as lacking core convictions, described the gun law as a "test of character" that the president had failed by not working to keep it on the books.

"In a secret deal, he chose his powerful friends in the gun lobby over police officers and families that he promised to protect," Kerry said. "The president made the wrong choice for Americans. And the American people are going to pay the price for his choice."

Bush voiced support for renewing the ban, which expired Monday, but did not lobby Congress to extend it.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed Kerry's charges as "another false attack" by the Democratic presidential nominee.

"The best way to deter and combat violence committed with guns is to vigorously enforce our laws, and this administration has a strong record of vigorously and strictly enforcing our laws," McClellan said.

Kerry's comments came as he accepted the endorsement of the National Assn. of Police Organizations, a coalition of unions and law-enforcement groups. Gun-control advocate Sarah Brady, who introduced Kerry, echoed his accusation that Bush was to blame for the demise of the 10-year-old law.

"George W. Bush, shame on you for making this decision," she said. Brady is the wife of James Brady, the White House press secretary who was seriously wounded during the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981.

The Massachusetts senator, surrounded by law-enforcement officers who backed renewal of the assault weapons ban, faulted Bush for proposing cuts in federal aid to local police. He said police were "tired of a president who takes cops off the streets" but puts "military assault weapons back on."

Kerry also highlighted his anticrime proposals, which would cost $5 billion over 10 years, according to his campaign. Among them are increased aid to local police, 5,000 new community prosecutors and crackdowns on gang violence and rural methamphetamine labs.

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