As he stood before the National Rifle Association in September, Sen. John Mccain accused big city mayors of using gun manufacturers as a scapegoat for their inability to control crime in their cities. They “decided it was more important to blame the manufacturers of a legal product than it was to control crime in their own cities,” he scolded as he took his turn trying to woo this powerful constituency.
“Instead of increasing police patrols, instituting tough sentences for lawbreakers and other measures that would actually address crime,” the Republican presidential candidate continued, “we restrict ownership of guns and limit the rights of law abiding citizens.”
The “big city myth,” he said, is that guns are the problem, not crime.
Given that speech, it’s probably no surprise that the Arizona senator doesn’t believe in gun control. No “assault rifle” ban, no ammunition bans, no liability for gun manufacturers for crimes committed with their weapons, and no waiting period for the purchase of a gun. He is also a cosponsor of a bill that would reinstate the rights of residents of Washington DC to own firearms. (A local law from 1976 bans handguns there, and the US Supreme Court recently decided to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the law.)
McCain has put his foot down on the issue during some touchy times. “I strongly support the Second Amendment and I believe the Second Amendment ought to be preserved — which means no gun control,” he declared shortly after the Virginia Tech massacre.
To keep guns out of the wrong hands, he supports a law mandating the inclusion of gun safety devices like trigger locks with guns for sale; instant criminal background checks for gun consumers; and strict, mandatory penalties for the use of a gun in a crime and for the possession of illegal firearms.
As evidence of his aversion to gun control, he has hired the NRA’s former head lobbyist, James Jay Baker. Another staffer on McCain’s campaign that might speak to his values is former California Secretary of State Bill Jones, author of the state’s “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law.
But McCain’s relationship with gun advocacy groups hasn’t been consistently warm and fuzzy. While he voted in tandem with Gun Owners of America 100 percent of the time in 2006, the year before that he voted with them on zero of their issues. And the NRA gave him a “C+” in 2004, the last time they ranked the senator.
The NRA waged a campaign against a signature bill of McCain’s in 2002 that would have limited their influence, and special interests in general, on campaigns. And the senator’s support of background checks for the purchase of firearms from private sellers at gun shows doesn’t thrill them either, a fact he admitted during his speech.
But what of those mayors he mentioned? His comments were interpreted as attacks on the record of Rudolph Giuliani. But the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition has been steadily growing, and currently boasts 270 members. Co-founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is currently toying with his own run for the White House, the coalition has sent out a questionnaire to the current candidates. The questionnaire asks for their positions on access to gun data, the toughening of penalties for illegal firearm activities, the prohibition of assault weapons, and more. It would be interesting to see Mccain’s response to the survey.