March 2, 2004 was a defining moment for the 2004 election. With voting
taking place on
Senator Kerry returned to Washington to place his votes. He was called
back to Washington by the Democratic leadership because the votes were
expected to be very close. Once and for all, clarity arrived and we can
now see his dedication to gun control.
For more analysis check out 'Democrats
showed their true anti-gun colors' in the Abilene News Reporter -
March 7, 2004.
What follows is the transcript from the speech given by Senator Kerry
before voting on S. 1805 was to begin. For details on his votes that day
go to Voting Record.
March 25: Long after the defeat of the Assault Weapons Ban was an
acknowledged certainty, Tom Diaz of the Violence Policy Center
said on NPR:
"If the existing assault-weapons ban expires, I personally do not
believe it will make one whit of difference one way or another in terms
of our objective, which is reducing death and injury and getting a
particularly lethal class of firearms off the streets. So if it doesn't
pass, it doesn't pass." Pretty ho-hum words for legislation that had
been pushed and praised for so many years.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts.
Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, the issue before the Senate today
can really be summed up in one word: Responsibility. I first started
hunting with my cousins when I was a kid, and I still enjoy hunting today.
I believe strongly in the second amendment. I believe in the right to bear
arms as it has been interpreted in our country.
But I also believe that with our rights come fundamental,
commonsense responsibilities. The right to bear arms is a right that
should be protected for law-abiding Americans who want to protect
themselves and their families.
There is, however, no right to place military-style assault
weapons into the hands of terrorists and/or criminals who wish to cause
American families harm. There is no right to have access to the weapons of
war in the streets of America. For those who want to wield those weapons,
we have a place for them. It is the U.S. military. And we welcome them.
If we do not act today to continue the ban on these deadly
weapons, then our families in America, our police officers in America, are
more threatened than they ought to be. For 10 years, the assault weapons
ban has stopped fugitives, rapists, and murderers from purchasing weapons
such as AK-47s. And
for 10 years, not one honest, responsible American has had their guns
taken away because of this law.
It is interesting that a few months ago I was actually
hunting in Iowa with the sheriff and with some of his deputies. As we
walked through a field with the dogs, hunting pheasant, he pointed out a
house in back of me, a house they had raided only a few weeks earlier,
where meth and crack were being sold. On the morning when they went in to
arrest this alleged criminal, there was an assault weapon on the floor
lying beside that individual.
That sheriff and others across this country do not believe we
should be selling these weapons or allowing them to be more easily
available to criminals in our country. That is why gun owners across
America support renewing the assault weapons ban. They support also
closing the gun show loophole so that gun shows can continue uninterrupted
without being magnets for criminals and/or terrorists who try to get
around the law.
If there is a gun show loophole, a terrorist could simply go
to one State, go into the gun show, buy a gun without the kind of ground
check normal in the process, leave that gun show, travel to another State,
and engage in either criminal or terrorist activity or both.
Let's be honest about what we are facing today. The
opposition to this commonsense gun safety law is being driven by the
powerful NRA special interest leadership and by lobbyists in Washington. I
don't believe this is the voice of responsible gun owners across America.
Gun owners in America want to defend their families, and I
believe the NRA leadership is defending the indefensible. There is a gap
between America's ``Field & Stream'' gun owners and the NRA's ``Soldier of
When he ran for President in 2000, President Bush promised
the American people he would work to renew the assault weapons ban. But
now, under pressure, he is walking away from that commitment, as he has
from so many other promises--from education, to the environment, to the
economy. This President says he will sign this giveaway to the gun
industry, but he is refusing to sign the assault weapons ban he told
America he would support.
I believe gun owners have a responsibility, and so does the
President of the United States--a responsibility to keep his word, a
responsibility to do what he says he will do, a responsibility to protect
Americans from danger, and to provide for the common defense.
There is a reason every major law enforcement and police
group in America supports this ban. They know no police officer should
ever have to face the prospect of being outgunned by the military-style
assault weapons. No American citizen should have to live in fear of being
gunned down by snipers, gang members, or even terrorists who wield assault
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.
Mr. REID. Mr. President, is there any time left on our side?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Four minutes.
Mr. REID. Mr. President, I yield the remaining time to the
Senator from Massachusetts.
Mr. KERRY. I thank the distinguished leader.
President Bush needs to tell America's police officers why he
is not standing on their side.
Today George Bush will celebrate the anniversary of the
creation of the Department of Homeland Security, and I am glad the
President joined us in that effort. But it will take more than a big, new
bureaucracy to make America safer. Today airport screeners are being cut,
air marshals are not getting trained, fire departments only have enough
radios for about 50 percent of the firefighters, and almost two-thirds of
our firehouses are shortchanged. The COPS funds have been eliminated in
order to fund the President's tax cuts for the wealthiest few. By taking
cops off our streets with one hand, and allowing military-style assault
weapons back on them with the other, this President is jeopardizing the
safety of our
communities. It is wrong to do so, to pay for more tax breaks for
billionaires and pay back more favors to a special interest lobbying
Let me just say one word quickly about the overall issue of
liability itself. I am not for, and I do not think any reasonable person
is for, a gun manufacturer being held liable for a murder that takes place
in the life of America, unfortunately too often. But what we do know is
about 1.2 percent or so of gun dealers and wholesalers are responsible for
about 57 percent of the weapons that wind up in the hands of criminals.
There are many ``straw'' transactions that take place in situations where
manufacturers know who the problem dealers are.
To not have a wanton-and-reckless-conduct standard for
liability is to avoid responsibility; it is to allow people to look the
other way, as they have in the past, when we demand responsible actions in
the communities of America.
I believe American gun owners are right to act responsibly
and to live by common sense, and I am proud to stand with those gun owners
today. I hope President Bush, the NRA leadership, and other lobby groups
will reverse course and join the millions of Americans who know gun rights
and gun responsibilities are mainstream American values, and that is what
we should vote for in the Senate.
I thank the leader for the extra time.