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Gun Control Seen as
Major Election Issue
Poll Finds Strong Support For Tougher Firearms Laws

Written By Amy Worden - July 26, 2000 

WASHINGTON (APBnews.com) -- A new survey released by a leading gun control group found that voters -- by a 3-to-1 ratio -- support tougher gun laws. 

The survey found that voters were consistent in drawing connections between gun issues and politics. A majority of survey participants -- especially suburban women who knew little about the candidates' records or platforms -- supported Vice President Al Gore by a wide margin once they were told of the candidate's stand on the gun issue. 

"When people are given a candidate's stand on gun issues, one of the choices is away from [George W.] Bush," said Brian Morton, deputy communications director for Handgun Control Inc., the advocacy group that commissioned the survey. 

Suburban women have big say 

Among suburban women, Democrat Gore's position soared 28 points to 57 percent, compared with Republican Bush's 29 percent. 

The survey sampled more than 800 voters nationally, including 300 suburban women in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and New Jersey. 

"The presidential election is going to be decided in large measure by suburban women," said Peter Hart, of Hart Research Associates, which conducted the survey. "When these voters compare the Bush and Gore positions on guns, Bush scares them and Gore wins them." 

Gore campaign pleased 

Officials with the Gore campaign were delighted with the poll results. 

"We think these results prove that when voters move beyond Bush's rhetoric and are informed of his record his support evaporates," said Gore spokesman Jano Cabrera. 

"Al Gore thinks that having a comprehensive crime fighting plan that keeps guns out of the hands of criminals is paramount." 

GOP: Voters trust Bush 

But Republicans and gun rights advocates cited other polls, including an ABC/Washington Post poll released Tuesday that found more voters trust Bush's ability to handle the crime and gun issue. 

"The last two polls ABC/Washington Post polls show Bush winning on who will be stronger on crime and who [voters] can trust on the gun issue," said Mark Pfeifle, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee. 

He said Bush is focusing on bipartisan crime-fighting strategies. 

"Republicans are committed to making sure people who break gun laws are prosecuted, something Clinton and Gore have been completely negligent on." 

Bill Powers, communications director the National Rifle Association, agreed. 

"Poll after poll shows voters have more confidence in Bush dealing with violence and gun rights," Powers said. "Americans believe better enforcement is the solution not another gun control bill." 

Concealed weapon law cited 

Gun control advocates, meanwhile, say such polls may reflect voters' lack of knowledge about the candidates' positions on gun issues.  

"They don't know that Bush signed into law a bill allowing people to carry concealed handguns in Texas, and later approved a bill allowing them to carry guns in churches, hospitals and amusement parks," said David Bernstein, a spokesman for Handgun Control. 

The NRA argues Bush's stand on concealed weapons in fact won widespread support from women voters and helped propel him to governor of Texas in 1994. 

Columbine put issue 'on the agenda' 

Gun control groups, which are expanding their grass roots lobbying and fundraising efforts to compete with the NRA this election year, point to the Million Mom March as evidence that supporters are turning their concerns into action. 

Leaders say the Mother's Day rally, which brought 1 million gun control supporters to the National Mall in Washington, is evidence that, for the first time, gun control will be a key issue in a presidential election. 

"The Littleton [Colorado] shooting put gun control on the agenda, it's pointed up the pervasiveness of guns and the significant loopholes in the law," Morton said.