As a Republican presidential candidate, Elizabeth Dole
took notably moderate stands on gun control. She supported a ban on
assault weapons and a three-day wait for purchases at gun shows. She
criticized state laws letting people carry concealed weapons.
Now that she's running for the Senate in North Carolina, Dole has changed her stance on all those issues. In a recent letter to the state's premier gun-rights group, she said, "We do not need new restrictions on those who already observe the thousands of gun laws on the books.''
Dole's comments come as she parries attacks from the political right in her quest for the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.).
In her short-lived 1999 presidential bid, she positioned herself to the left of George W. Bush on several issues, especially gun control. In a May 1999 speech in Washington, she said, "It's wrong to let people carry concealed weapons." She added: "While I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I simply cannot accept that in modern America you need an AK-47 to defend your family. I won't shy away from the tough issues, even if some in my party don't like it." Now, in a state whose GOP primary voters are staunchly conservative, she is shifting rightward.
"In the past, I expressed support for the ban on 'assault weapons,'" Dole said in her Oct. 30 statement to the North Carolina Rifle and Pistol Association, an affiliate of the National Rifle Association. "Seven years after President Clinton and his allies outlawed so-called 'assault' weapons, there appears to have been little effect on crime prevention or punishment. What is effective is the Instant Check system. We should stick with what works.''
Dole also said, "North Carolina has another common sense proposal in place: a right-to-carry law that allows citizens to obtain a concealed handgun permit from the local sheriff after being trained and certified.'' Local sheriffs tell her "the law is working,'' she said.
Campaign spokesman Jay Warshaw said Dole has adjusted her views on gun control based on states' experience with new laws.
"With regard to concealed weapons," Warshaw said, "she said at the time it's a matter for states to decide. Her concerns have been satisfied regarding the North Carolina law.'' Regarding the assault weapons ban, he said, "she wants to review its effectiveness.''
Dole has failed to mollify at least one rival for the GOP nomination, Lumberton radiologist Jim Parker. The News and Observer of Raleigh, which first reported Dole's new positions on gun control, quoted Parker as saying: "She started her career in 1965 in Washington, D.C., and she hasn't made it this far without covering her tracks and spinning her views when the political winds blow."
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