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John Edwards on Gun Control

2004 Democratic Nominee for Vice President; Former Jr Senator (NC)


Against gun licensing but support the assault weapons ban

Q: It now appears that it’s hard to win a national election with that position on gun licensing. Is that fair?

A: That’s fair, but I haven’t changed my position on this. I’m against it. It is enormously important to protect people’s Second Amendment rights. The assault weapons ban, as president I’ll do everything in my power to reinstate it. But we need a president who understands the sportsmen, hunters who use their guns for lawful purposes have a right to have their Second Amendment rights.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas Jan 15, 2008

In rural America, hunting and gun ownership is a way of life

Protecting Lawful Gun Ownership:
In small towns across America, hunting and gun ownership is a way of life. John Edwards believes that law-abiding citizens have the right to defend their families and respects the long American tradition of hunting. We can protect Second Amendment gun rights while also stopping criminals from using guns. Edwards will protect the right of law-abiding citizens to participate in gun shows, while ensuring all that all weapons sold there are subject to an instant check.
Source: Campaign website, www.johnedwards.com, “Issues” Sep 1, 2007

Don’t need AK-47 to hunt; renew assault weapons ban

Q: How would you address gun violence that continues to be the #1 cause of death among African-American men?

A: There are problems with the instant background check system that we have today. That needs to be fixed. Those problems became obvious with the shooting at Virginia Tech. There are other things that need to be done, like closing the gun show loophole, and I believe in the Second Amendment, but I don’t believe you need an AK-47 to hunt. And I think we need to renew the assault weapons ban for that reason. But I also want to join in the idea that in addition to guns specifically and trying to do something to limit gun violence, we also need to create hope for so many young African-American men who think they’re either going to die or go to prison. They don’t see any hope whatsoever in their lives, which means we need to bring good jobs into the inner city so that they can support themselves, support their families.

Source: 2007 NAACP Presidential Primary Forum Jul 12, 2007

Right to bear arms protected by Second Amendment, with rules

I believe the right to bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment. I also support reasonable measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, including closing the gun show loophole and vigorously enforcing gun laws.
Source: 2004 Presidential National Political Awareness Test Mar 3, 2004

Hunting is fine, but criminals & kids should have limits

Q: How will your gun stance play among Southern voters?

EDWARDS: I grew up in the rural South. Everyone around me hunted, everyone had guns. I respect and believe in people’s Second Amendment rights. That does not, however, mean that somebody needs an AK-47 to hunt. It does not mean that somebody who’s been convicted of a violent crime should be able to walk out of prison, walk across the street and buy a gun. It does not mean that we shouldn’t take every step that we can take to keep guns safe and keep guns out of the hands of kids. So, my belief is, first, I defend people’s Second Amendment rights, but I don’t think it’s without limit.

Q: What federal gun control measures you would propose?

EDWARDS: I think we should extend the Brady Bill, which is set to expire. I think that we need to close forever the gun-show loophole, [to avoid criminals] buying a gun. I think it does make sense to have trigger locks for the purpose of keeping guns safe from children.

Source: Democratic 2004 Primary Debate at St. Anselm College Jan 22, 2004

Leading Dems distance themselves from divisive gun debate

Democratic presidential candidates are distancing themselves from tough gun control, reversing a decade of rhetoric and advocacy by the Democratic Party in favor of federal regulation of firearms.

Howard Dean proudly tells audiences that the NRA endorsed him as governor of Vermont, and that he would leave most gun laws to the states. Dick Gephardt, a longtime gun control advocate, is careful to highlight his support for law-abiding gun owners. John Edwards says, “Guns are about independence. They don’t want people messing with that.“

As a result, Democratic strategists predict the debate over gun laws in this campaign will be less divisive. Democrats might fight for narrow proposals to make guns safer and more difficult for children and criminals to obtain, they said, yet voters are likely to hear as much about enforcing existing gun laws as creating new ones-a position Republicans and the NRA have pushed for years.

Source: Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, p. A1 Oct 26, 2003

Guns are about independence-don’t mess with that

“It’s very important for us as Democrats to understand that where I come from guns are about a lot more than guns themselves,” said John Edwards. “They are about independence. For a lot of people who work hard for a living, one of the few things they feel they have any control over is whether they can buy a gun and hunt. They don’t want people messing with that, which I understand.”
Source: Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, p. A1 Oct 26, 2003

Voted YES on background checks at gun shows.

Require background checks on all firearm sales at gun shows.
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)50; N)50; VP decided YES
Reference: Lautenberg Amdt #362; Bill S. 254 ; vote number 1999-134 on May 20, 1999

Voted NO on more penalties for gun & drug violations.

The Hatch amdt would increase mandatory penalties for the illegal transfer or use of firearms, fund additional drug case prosecutors, and require background check on purchasers at gun shows. [A YES vote supports stricter penalties].
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)48; N)47; NV)5
Reference: Hatch Amendment #344; Bill S. 254 ; vote number 1999-118 on May 14, 1999

Voted NO on loosening license & background checks at gun shows.

Vote to table or kill a motion to require that all gun sales at gun shows be completed by federally licensed gun dealers. Also requires background checks to be completed on buyers and requires gun show promoters to register with the Treasury.
Reference: Bill S.254 ; vote number 1999-111 on May 11, 1999

Prevent unauthorized firearm use with "smart gun" technology.

Edwards adopted the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade":

Make America the “Safest Big Country” in the World
After climbing relentlessly for three decades, crime rates started to fall in the 1990s. Nonetheless, the public remains deeply concerned about the prevalence of gun violence, especially among juveniles, and Americans still avoid public spaces like downtown retail areas, parks, and even sports facilities.

We need to keep policing “smart” and community-friendly, prohibiting unjust and counterproductive tactics such as racial profiling; focus on preventing as well as punishing crime; pay attention to what happens to inmates and their families after sentencing; use mandatory testing and treatment to break the cycle of drugs and crime; and enforce and strengthen laws against unsafe or illegal guns. Moreover, we need a renewed commitment to equal justice for all, and we must reject a false choice between justice and safety.

Technology can help in many areas: giving police more information on criminal suspects so they do not rely on slipshod, random stop-and-search methods; allowing lower-cost supervision of people on probation or parole; and making it possible to disable and/or trace guns used by unauthorized persons.

Above all, we need to remember that public safety is the ultimate goal of crime policy. Until Americans feel safe enough to walk their neighborhood streets, enjoy public spaces, and send their children to school without fear of violence, we have not achieved public safety.

Source: The Hyde Park Declaration 00-DLC11 on Aug 1, 2000

Other candidates on Gun Control: John Edwards on other issues:
Nominees:
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden

Third Parties:
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader
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Page last updated: Feb 08, 2010